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Random thoughts: Chase for VISL's Jackson Cup begins

The Vancouver Island Soccer League’s Jackson Cup, patterned after the FA Cup, operates on a random draw.
Vince Greco ready to hand over the Jackson Cup.

The Vancouver Island Soccer League’s Jackson Cup, patterned after the FA Cup, operates on a random draw. The unpredictability of that has created peculiar situations in the Jackson Cup’s 103-year history, including having the top-two seeds play each other in the first round.

“I like the random draw. Your team gets drawn when it gets drawn . . . and you get to play at home when you get drawn to play at home,” said Vince Greco, executive president of the VISL.

“It’s an equal process for everybody.”

And random means random. Westcastle and Vic West have drawn the short sticks this year as the VISL Div. 1 clubs must go through play-in games in order to reach the main draw for the 2018 Jackson Cup. And they will be the visitors and don’t even get to play on their home fields against vastly lower-seeded opponents.

Second-seed Vic West, whose legacy includes six Province Cup titles between 1976 and 1984, is questing to win its first Jackson Cup since Duran Duran topped the charts. The Wests meet host and No. 16 Gorge FC of VISL Div. 2 on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Hampton Park. The winner advances to play No. 13 Nanaimo of Div. 2 on the Feb. 16-18 weekend with the exact date and venue to be announced.

“Vic West is a provincial threat. But can they jell is the question,” said Greco.

Fifth-seed Westcastle meets 19th-seed and host Sooke of Div. 2 at 7 p.m. Friday night at Fred Milne Park. The winner will advance to a first-round fixture on the Feb. 16-18 weekend against fourth-seed Nanaimo United, which last year also started from the No. 4 ranking, and went on to win its first Jackson Cup championship since 1999.

The other play-in game is an all-Div. 2 matchup Saturday at 7 p.m. at Layritz Park between No. 15 Vic West and No. 17 Prospect Lake. The winner will advance to face No. 3 Gorge FC of Div. 1 in the opening round on Feb. 17 at a site to be determined.

The oddest matchup of the random draw is a first-round fixture between the sixth-seed Div. 1 and 10th-seed Div. 2 Lakehill teams. Each team will have home-field advantage at Braefoot Park on Feb. 18 at 2:15 p.m.

“That has happened in the past, to Vantreights, many seasons ago,” said Greco.

The random draw has given breaks to several teams who have avoided play-in games. There will be two all-Div. 2 matchups in the first round with No. 11 Juan de Fuca meeting No. 18 Fernwood on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at Westhills Stadium, while No. 12 SFFC takes on No. 14 Mid-Isle Mariners at 6 p.m. on Feb. 17 in Ladysmith.

The opening-round feature highlight appears to be the all- Div. 1 matchup between top-seed Cowichan FC and No. 9 Vancouver Island Wave at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 at Sherman Road in Duncan. Cowichan FC made its seventh championship-game appearance in the past eight years last spring, and was after its fifth Jackson Cup title in that span, before being denied by Nanaimo United.

“Cowichan is a veteran team that knows what it takes and has something to prove,” said Greco.

“But you can’t discount Nanaimo doing it again. They have a solid team, too.”

There is another all-Div. 1 first-round affair between No. 7 Bays United and No. 8 Comox Valley on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at Oak Bay High School.

The quarter-finals are on the weekend of March 2-4, semifinals March 10-11 and the final on Sunday, March 25, at 2:30 p.m. at Royal Athletic Park.

The Province Cup draw is April 3, leading to the B.C. championship game May 12 on the Lower Mainland.