There is nothing like it in the so-called big four North American team sports. The organic nature of soccer is never more evident than in cup play. It means Pacific FC of the CPL can play the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC of MLS, which they did last year. It means the Vancouver Island Soccer League Div. 2 last-place Campbell River Golden Wings, the 18th seed, starts out on equal footing as top-seed and VISL Div. 1-leading Lakehill FC (13-1) in the Jackson Cup.
The draw is random, making for even more intrigue, with higher seeds often meeting each other early while lower seeds have the possibility of softer routes through the brackets.
“It’s a fully random draw so anybody can play anybody, from top team or lowest team,” said VISL executive director Vince Greco, after the draw was conducted late Monday evening.
“Everyone has the same chance to get a favourable draw. Wherever the chips fall, the chips fall. It’s equal opportunity.”
The Jackson Cup was inaugurated in 1915 and modelled on the FA Cup in England.
The 15th-seed Easy Touch of Div. 2 will try to be anything but that in its play-in game Feb. 13 at Finlayson Park against No. 8 seed Comox Valley of Div. 1. The winner of that game will advance to meet the Golden Wings in the Sweet Sixteen.
The other play-in game features No. 7 Gorge FC of Div. 1 against No. 16 Saanich Fusion of Div. 2 to be contested between Feb. 11-13 at Hampton Park. The winner will meet No. 12 Nanaimo United of Div. 2 in the Sweet Sixteen, which will be played between Feb. 25-27.
The other Round of 16 games have No. 9 Powell River of Div. 1 drawn against No. 17 Juan de Fuca Hellas of Div. 2; top-ranked Lakehill of Div. 1 against No. 10 Westcastle of Div. 1; second-seed Nanaimo United of Div. 1 against No. 11 Lakehill of Div. 2; fifth-seed Cowichan FC of Div. 1 versus No. 14 Gorge FC of Div. 2; fourth-seed Bays United of Div. 1 against No. 13 Prospect Lake of Div. 2; and third-seed Vic West of Div. 1 against No. 6 Juan de Fuca of Div. 1 in the marquee match-up of the Sweet Sixteen.
“It’s a very interesting draw,” said Greco.
The quarter-finals will be played March 4-6, the semifinals March 11-13 and final March 26 at Starlight Stadium.
Nanaimo United is the defending Jackson Cup champion from 2020. The 2021 tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“COVID was the winner last year,” said Greco.
Vic West leads with 22 Jackson Cup championships, with Gorge FC next with 15.
“Vic West are the Montreal Canadiens of the VISL,” said Greco.
Cowichan FC won the 100th anniversary final in 2015 at Royal Athletic Park when the all-time Jackson Cup team was announced and included former pros and World Cup players.