Problems with under-18 soccer championship prompt changes next season
Ripple effect will be felt through P.E.I. soccer starting in 2017
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.
"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.
"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
"We will lose a competition, but that's not the major issue," said Wolters. "We still have two very good competitions."
"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.