The Victoria Highlanders were announced Friday for League1 B.C., which adds another layer as Canadian soccer continues to evolve and expand in ways thought unimaginable just a few years ago.
A national pro league was established in 2019 with the Canadian Premier League, which includes Island-based Pacific FC, the Canadian women won Olympic gold this year in Tokyo and the Canadian men appear pointed toward World Cup 2022.
League1 B.C., described as “semi-pro,” will operate at a level below the top-tier pro CPL as the second-tier in the establishment of a proper Canadian soccer pyramid to match the pyramid system used by nations around the world.
League1 B.C. will be on the same level as League1 Ontario and the Première Ligue de soccer du Québec, meaning that its men’s champion club will play annually in the Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup alongside the eight CPL clubs and the three Canadian teams in Major League Soccer in the national FA Cup-style competition.
“With the growth of soccer in Canada, the time was right for the Highlanders to join the Canadian soccer pyramid and to continue to assist in the growth of soccer on the Island and B.C.,” said Highlanders managing director Thomas Niendorf.
“This will help elevate the game in Canada even further and help identify players for pro opportunities and be a stepping stone to the CPL.”
League1 B.C. will field both men’s and women’s teams.
Steve Simonson will be head coach the Highlanders men’s squad and Neil Sedgwick the head coach of the Highlanders women’s team.
“We have high expectations for both programs to be competitive from the onset and are looking forward to bringing this level of soccer back to the community,” said Niendorf.
The Highlanders previously played in the Premier Development League, which was the amateur arm of the U.S.-based pro league USL.
The Highlanders are the sixth organization announced for League1 B.C. and joins Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, TSS Rovers of Burnaby, Unity FC of Langley, Altitude FC of North Vancouver and Rivers FC of Kamloops.
The first season of League1 B.C. is set to begin in May.
The Highlanders will play their home games at either Royal Athletic Park or Centennial Stadium with a decision to be announced.