Three Ottawa soccer clubs could some combine into one larger organization to improve the development of young, local talent, which follows the direction of Ontario's largest soccer organization.
The Nepean Hotspurs, Nepean City and Ottawa Royals soccer clubs have a total of more than 5,000 players registered in their three organizations.
Bernier Etzinger, president of the Ottawa Royals Soccer Club, wants to amalgamate the clubs to produce more high caliber players in response to a recent decision by the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) promoting “long-term player development.”
“You’re giving some of the players an opportunity that they may not have had before,” Etzinger said.
“I know we’ve turned out some players over the time that have gone on to other clubs to hopefully fulfill something where there is professional or semi-pro, or something like that, and maybe this partnership will allow for that to happen within our own clubs.”
Locally, the soccer club with the highest level of player development is the Ottawa Fury, which recently joined the North American Soccer League and will play out of the redeveloped Lansdowne Park.
Ottawa Fury FC, as their professional team will be called, has also become Canada’s fifth academy program, joining clubs in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton.
Ontario cities seek higher competition
At the youth level, cities such as Toronto have numerous high-level clubs and other regions of Ontario are adopting the OSA’s development plan.
The organization has gone across Ontario to 11 different locations to help phase in the approach with the Peel and Niagara regions already moving to change their development plans.
Etzinger said the competition in Ottawa is already there, but the city's clubs need to increase that level of competition to help develop better players.
That means clubs could soon separate young players into groups that seek a chance at international success and others who are playing for fun and fitness.
“It would be fantastic to see a kid, five years old now, in 14 or 15 years on a national team,” he said.
Tough results internationally
The idea is peaking interest in Ottawa because the nation’s capital is one of six Canadian host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Championships. Clubs believe these large-scale international events help spark new youth players.
FIFA estimates about 2.7 million Canadians currently play soccer, and there has been a growing number of Canadian teams in North America’s most premier soccer league, Major League Soccer.
But the national team has not been able to improve results over the past several years.
The women’s national team is doing well, ranked seventh in the world, but the men’s team is ranked out of the top 100 and sits behind such countries as Iraq, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea.
Also, Canada’s last and only appearance in the FIFA men’s World Cup came in 1986 where they failed to win a game.