PEI

Problems with under-18 soccer championship prompt changes next season

The P.E.I. Soccer Association is meeting with member clubs from across the Island this weekend to talk about big changes coming to the game.

Ripple effect will be felt through P.E.I. soccer starting in 2017

Challenges in getting players released from universities and colleges to play at the U-18 Championships, like this one on P.E.I. in 2015, have led the Canadian Soccer Association to make changes. (Canadian Soccer Association)

The P.E.I. Soccer Association is meeting with member clubs from across the Island this weekend to talk about big changes coming to the game.

The Canadian Soccer Association announced last year that it would be moving to under-17 and under-15 championships in 2017, replacing the current system of under-18, under-16 and under-14 championships.

Older players away at university

The changes come as a result of ongoing challenges putting on the under-18 championships in October, when many of the best players have left their home clubs and gone to play college or university soccer.

"A lot of clubs across the country lose their second year players in that age group to universities," explained Peter Wolters, executive director of the P.E.I. Soccer Association.

Peter Wolters hopes the change in age groups will actually be an advantage for P.E.I. coaches this year because they could have their best players for two years. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"There were even occasions where some clubs would not even be able to send that team, so the province would be looking for another team to go just because they lost so many players to universities," said Wolters.

He said there were also issues for teams because of the time between winning the provincial title and going to the national championships.

The U-18 Cup was held on P.E.I. in 2015, but the event will be eliminated after this season. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"We would have maybe an instance where five players would leave to off-Island to go to university," he said. "So the team as a whole wasn't even practicing together from the end of August until the competition that took place in October."

No under-14 championship

Changing the under-18 to a under-17 event means the players are still in high school, but there will be a ripple effect through the other age groups.  

The Canadian Soccer Association will hold events for under-17 and under-15, cutting the number of national events from three to two.

"We will lose a competition, but that's not the major issue," said Wolters. "We still have two very good competitions."

He said talks are underway to replace the national championship with a regional event for the younger players, starting in 2017, and he says the change-over year could even work in favour of Island soccer teams.
These U-18 players were part of the national championships held on P.E.I. in October 2015. (CBC)

"Coaches will be working with the same players for two years, in under-14 and then they will work with them again at under-15."

Planning for next season

Wolters said they will have to switch all the competitive teams to under-17 and under-15, to meet the national requirements, but the lower levels could stay at the current age groups.

The P.E.I. Soccer Association will also be consulting with other Maritime provinces.

"If our neighbouring provinces are perhaps staying at under-14 in the lower divisions, we'd have to take that into consideration because a lot of our clubs host tournaments and we don't want to affect that," said Wolters.

P.E.I. has been offering an under-19 division for the last couple of years because some teams were finding it hard to find enough players in under-18, and that age group will remain.

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