Calgary

Calgary soccer underdogs defy odds, score their way to semifinals

A bit of a Cinderella story has been unfolding this week for Calgary's only professional soccer team.

Supporters gave the team a 4% chance of winning their division, so they did just that

Calgary Foothills FC U23 have made it to the semifinals 0:38

A bit of a Cinderella story has been unfolding this week for Calgary's only professional soccer team.

Calgary Foothills FC U23 has only officially been a part of the Premier Development League for two years.

Supporters polled early in the season gave the team a four per cent chance of winning their division but now they have made it to the semifinals, one of the final four teams in the league, and the underdogs are in it to win it.

Midfielder Elijah Adekugbe says the journey has been a bit surreal.

"Last year we struggled a bit with scoring goals and we tied a lot of games so obviously we weren't expecting to make such a giant leap so quickly," Adekugbe told CBC News at a practice Wednesday.

Midfielder Elijah Adekugbe says the team was not expecting to make such a big leap. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

"We were just hoping to make playoffs but now we've exceeded that of course. It's just, we're taking it in."

Head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said after last season, the team focused on setting aggressive goals.

"We set benchmarks along the way," Wheeldon said.

"Every time we hit a target we set a new one, so now we are in the final four, we are in it to win it."

Head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said goal setting became important after last year's season. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

What the key to their success this year?

Wheeldon says teamwork and dedication.

"We have got a hotbed of talent here in Calgary. Canadian soccer is alive and well," he explained.

"Their commitment to the cause, their commitment to each other."

Adekugbe says it's about believing you can do it.

A poll of supporters early in the season found that only 4% felt the Calgary Foothills FC U23 would make it to the semifinals. They did just that. (Calgary Foothills FC U23)

"Well I think we just started to believe in ourselves, believe in the abilities that we have as a team, actually realize that we are a good team, we have good players that can compete in this league," he said.

"And, just something about once you start winning, it's like contagious, right? So it infects the camp and everyone just has that winning mentality and we want to win every game now, and it's just," Adekugbe said, pausing.

"It's infectious."

Calgary Foothills FC U23 head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. works on a plan at a practice in Calgary Thursday evening ahead of a big semifinal game this weekend. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Calgary Foothills FC take on the Ocean City Nor'easters in New Jersey on Saturday.

Kickoff is 3 p.m. MT, and the match will be live streamed on YouTube.

The Calgary Tower will be lit in green and white in support of the team Saturday night.

With files from CBC's Diane Yanko and Justin Pennell