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VISL teams set for long road to Jackson Cup

Unlike in Europe, sporting timelines in North America are rarely measured by the century. But the Jackson Cup is.
Unlike in Europe, sporting timelines in North America are rarely measured by the century.

But the Jackson Cup is. It is among the most venerable sporting hunts on the Island and has featured eventual World Cup players, other highly capped Canadian internationals, pros and dynasty clubs such as Vic West.

The 2017 random draw has been made for the chase for the 102nd Vancouver Island Soccer League title.

Top-rated Cowichan FC has drawn ninth-ranked Comox Valley United, also of the VISL First Division, for the opening round scheduled for Feb. 17-19.

The Jackson Cup is contested by the Division 1-2 teams of the VISL. Cowichan FC has been the dominant team of the recent era, with four Jackson Cup titles in the past seven years and six championship game appearances in that span.

There is a play-in round Feb. 10-12 featuring four Division 2 teams. The winner between the Jackson Cup 13th-ranked Vic West Casuals and 15th-ranked Lakehill United will advance to play fifth-ranked Nanaimo United of Division 1 in the first round. The play-in winner between 14th-rated Westcastle United and the 16th-ranked Prospect Lake Lakers advances to a first-round matchup against the 18th-ranked Fred Milne Rangers of Division 2.

Along with Cowichan-Comox Valley, there are two other all-Division 1 showdowns. Second-ranked Bays United meets No. 6 Vancouver Island Wave, while third-ranked Gorge FC plays 10th-ranked SFFC.

Other first-round matchups include No. 7 Lakehill of Division 1 versus No. 17 Nanaimo United of Division 2, fourth-ranked Vic West of Division 1 against 11th-ranked Cowichan United of Division 2 and eighth-ranked Campbell River of Division 1 against No. 12 Vantreights of Division 2.

The quarter-finals are scheduled for March 3-5, semifinals March 17-19 and the final April 2 at Royal Athletic Park.

Just five points separate the top five teams in the VISL First Division with Cowichan FC on 27 points, Bays United and Gorge FC both on 25 points, Vic West 23 and Nanaimo United 22. Three of those teams have played 12 games while Cowichan and Vic West have played 11.

“The parity in Division 1 is the biggest story of the season so far,” said VISL executive president Vince Greco.

Along with the weather.

“The other big story is how we have escaped missing too many games, and gotten most of our fixtures in, while the Lower Mainland has been forced to miss a lot of games,” said Greco.

The early VISL Division 1 MVP candidates are veteran scorer Paddy Nelson of Cowichan FC, Brian Taylor of Vic West and Gorge FC rookie and University of Victoria Vikes graduate Dominic Colantonio.

CORNER KICKS: The VISL has announced a deal in which all league and Jackson Cup games next season will feature Umbro balls bearing the logos of the VISL and a sponsor soon to be unveiled.

“Our new VISL match balls are being made from scratch at the [Umbro] plant with the league and sponsor logos burned into the balls. It’s a $20,000 deal,” said Greco.

“These are the top-level balls used by FIFA and the CSA. The VISL and Ontario 1 League are the only amateur leagues in Canada that have this deal.”