Pacific FC may get B.C. rival in Canadian Premier League soccer

Pacific FC’s closest rivals in the Canadian Premier League — FC Edmonton and Cavalry FC of Calgary — are across the Rockies. So it makes sense that Island-based PFC would welcome a natural B.C. rivalry, and one that could come with a big-time German tinge.

“It would be fantastic … the Lower Mainland is a clear goal for the league,” said Pacific FC president and co-owner Josh Simpson.

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Simpson was responding to a story in Transfermarkt, the authoritative soccer website, which reported on the weekend that placing a team on the Lower Mainland, possibly the Fraser Valley, is a “major priority.”

“That team could see major financing from the German Bundesliga,” wrote Oak Bay-based Transfermarkt reporter Manuel Veth.

“Three major German teams are linked with investing in a club in the [CPL]. Sources have suggested both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich could be interested in the project. Another possibility is Werder Bremen. There have also been suggestions by reliable sources that the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL)—the Bundesliga governing body—could be involved directly.”

That template of big-league European participation with CPL franchises was established this season when Atlético Madrid-owned Atlético Ottawa became the CPL’s eighth team.

“Atlético set the pace. And there is a clear connection between Bayern Munich and Vancouver through Alphonso Davies [the Canadian prodigy who came out of the MLS Whitecaps],” said Simpson.

“There’s a lot of action right now with a handful of groups. This demand is exciting. The goal is to have 16 teams in the CPL by 2028 with a West-East split that is ideal.”

Transfermarkt said it was unable to confirm the story with the DFL: “But it is understood that the league has followed Atlético Madrid’s expansion to Canada — the LaLiga side own Atlético Ottawa —with great interest.”

Pacific FC co-owners Simpson and Rob Friend both played in the Bundesliga. Simpson played for FC Kaiserslautern and was capped 43 times for Canada. PFC general manager and CEO Friend played six seasons for Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt and was capped 32 times for Canada. They have used those connections to repatriate Canada U-23 player and emerging PFC defender Kadin Chung of Port Coquitlam from FC Kaiserslautern II and recently placed goalkeeper Emil Gazdov on loan with FC Nürnberg of the 2. Bundesliga.

A Lower Mainland CPL team would give PFC some annual away games that are just a ferry ride away. It would also allow for a handy B.C. back-to-back Mainland-Island road-double for other visiting teams. PFC was one of seven charter members of the CPL — Canada’s pro soccer league mandated in order to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico — during the inaugural 2019 season. PFC placed third in the recently-completed 2020 pandemic-abbreviated season played without fans amid a bubble hub in Charlottetown, P.E.I. The 2021 CPL season is of more immediate concern for PFC than potential future provincial rivals.

“We are totally focused on 2021 right now,” said Simpson.

“We would like to see fans allowed into Westhills Stadium on a percentage-capacity basis. It’s hard to operate sports teams without fans. Not just for the financial side of things but also for the atmosphere and excitement they provide.”

But like everybody in sports looking ahead to 2021, the CPL is hoping for the best while preparing for whatever comes.

“We are planning for a normal season,” said Simpson.

“If we have to pivot or adapt, then we will do that.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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