Anybody with even a cursory interest in women’s soccer will know the names of Olympic and World Cup stars Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Julie Foudy, Megan Rapinoe and Brandi Chastain of the U.S., Sissi of Brazil, Nozumi Yamago of Japan and Karen Bardsley of England.
During their development days, they all played in the amateur Women’s Premier Soccer League.
A local group is bringing the WPSL, the largest women’s soccer league in the world, to the Island. The new Victoria franchise is targeted to begin play this season in May. A home field is being negotiated. A team name will be announced soon.
Targeted players include University of Victoria Vikes and Vancouver Island University Mariners players, Islanders on other U Sports, Pacwest or NCAA teams and top players in the Lower Island Women’s Soccer League. The WPSL season runs through July and concludes before university and college training camps.
Open trials for the Victoria team will be held April 1 and April 24 at 8 p.m. at Braefoot Park and April 25 at 6 p.m. at UVic turf field.
The team will run under the auspices of EPIC Sports Management. Former Canada U-17 assistant coach Neil Sedgwick, director of youth development at EPIC Sports and head coach of the UNBC Timberwolves women’s Canada West team in U Sports, will be co-coach of the Victoria WPSL team along with EPIC Sports’ academy director and Brentwood College head coach Wes Barrett. The managers are Corey and Stacy Volk.
“By Vancouver Island having a team in the WPSL, youth, current and former university female players are given an opportunity to compete and develop outside of their current playing environments,” said Sedgwick.
Sedgwick, the fifth overall selection in the 1990 Canadian Soccer League draft, has had appointments with the national team women’s program under former head coaches Neil Turnbull and Even Pellerud. Sedgwick was also USC Trojans women’s assistant coach in the NCAA and head coach of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and University of Montana Grizzlies, the latter which he led to the Big Sky Conference tournament in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
The WPSL features elite NCAA and U Sports collegiate, post-collegiate and even graduating high school players.
It’s about continuing player development and providing another avenue for top players in university, collegiate or club soccer, said Barrett.
“This fills a gap in the development pathway,” said Barrett, who won a U Sports national championship during his playing career with the UVic Vikes from 2008 to 2012.
“The WPSL is the next league below the pro National Women’s Soccer League and is the biggest women’s league in North America.”
It is the second new soccer team set to begin play in the region this season.
“There is tremendous excitement in soccer right now on the Island with the coming of Pacific FC in the [men’s] pro Canadian Premier League, and this adds an element for female soccer on the Island,” said Barrett.
The WPSL, in its 23rd season, has more than 100 clubs spread across North America. The Seattle Sounders defeated Pensacola FC of Florida 3-1 in the 2018 WPSL championship game played in Norman, Oklahoma.
The Victoria expansion team will play in the West Region’s Northwest Conference alongside the likes of TSS Rovers from the Lower Mainland, the Sounders, Eugene Timbers and the expansion Spokane Shadow.