Calgary soccer players prep for 1st season on city's 2 elite teams

Calgary's soccer community is optimistic that two elite-level teams can thrive in this city. The Foothills FC under-23 team kicked off its training camp this week, while the newly formed Cavalry FC starts its camp next month.

Cavalry FC hits the pitch this spring in new pro league as Foothills FC under-23 already in training

Foothills FC, in green and white, play Chicago United FC on July 28, 2018, in Okotoks, Alta., in the USL League Two semifinals. They won the game and went on to be national champions that season (Canada Footy News/YouTube)

Calgary's soccer community is optimistic two elite-level teams can thrive in this city.

The Foothills FC under-23 team kicked off its training camp this week. It's part of the USL League Two, which has 72 teams all over North America, including the Calgary squad and teams in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria.

The team won the national league championship trophy last season.

The newly formed Cavalry FC starts its training camp next month. It's part of the Canadian Premier League, a new professional league that debuts this spring. 

Foothills FC head coach Leon Hapgood says the team has good financial backing now and they're hoping for lots of fans in the stands. The squad took the national championship trophy in 2018. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The Cavalry FC will play its home games at Spruce Meadows. Foothills FC had been playing at Foothills Composite High School in Okotoks, but the team expects to announce a new home field later this week.

The hope is that both teams will keep attracting more fans and more funding.

Rather than directly competing for fans and players, the two squads are actually more complementary, says Foothills FC media coordinator David Standish. The Foothills FC represent the highest level of developmental amateur play in North America — akin to the CHL in hockey — while the Cavalry FC are part of a Canadian professional league, somewhat like the CFL in football.

Foothills FC head coach Leon Hapgood says the team is stable behind the scenes and has some good financial backing.

"So we need to work hard to keep bringing that in but at the same time we're in a good position right now," he said. 

"And I know that Cavalry are going to draw good crowds, as well."

Soccer is more popular in Calgary than people might think, according to Foothills FC winger Tofa Fakunle.

Foothills FC player Tofa Fakunle says he was happy to see so many people out to the team's semi-final game last year. (Monty Kruger/CBC)
  "At our semi-final, I think we had over 1,000 people there," Fakunle said. "I think soccer is, or football, is massive here in Calgary — and I'm looking forward to the crowds that will be supporting us," he said.

Fakunle says it's exiting for Canada to now have its own premier professional league for players like him to aspire to with the creation of the CPL.

"Now that Canada has its own professional league, players get the opportunity to showcase themselves here in their hometowns, in their own country, instead of having to leave to go to Europe or whatever to pursue a career there," he said.

"You can pursue a career in your own backyard, and there's something special about that."

With files from Monty Kruger, Rachel Ward


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