In 2013, the Canada Soccer Association (CSA) was presented with the Easton Report which encouraged the CSA to develop a series of regionalized Division 3 semi-pro leagues. The regional champions were to compete in a national tournament. This recommendation strengthened Quebec’s new league, Première Ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ) which was founded in 2012. It also led to the sanctioning of League1 Ontario (L1O), which began play in 2014. Although rumours of other regional leagues have circled for several years, nothing else appeared to be on the horizon.
In February 2015, we got a little excited when it was announced that people from BC Soccer were present at an L1O team announcement & news conference. Other than a few brief words about how impressed they were and hoped to learn from L1O, there was no word on a prospective league in British Columbia. Even as recently as September, there was nothing official:
— BC Soccer (@1BCSoccer) September 21, 2016
Change finally came last night when, in a surprise announcement, BC Soccer both announced there would be a 3rd Division, and that it would launch in 2018. Although this puts the launch the same year as the still-rumoured Canadian Premier League, it is a very necessary step for the sport in British Columbia. Yesterday’s announcement included a basic information package, an operations manual, and a pre-application form. Having combed through the documents, here’s some of the most important information for potential fans.
BC Soccer refers to the league as Regional Tier 3 (BCRT3), and the season will run from May through July. This is a similar season length as PDL. Additionally, there will be a Cup competition, similar to L1O & PLSQ. From the operations manual, there does not appear to be any playoffs. This means the winner will be determined based upon total number of points, much like PLSQ. This could change once the league launches if the team locations help create conferences, but they’re still looking for teams at this point.
For the actual matches, we’re looking at 2 standard 45-minute halves. The game day roster can contain a maximum of 3 foreign players. Additionally, there must be a minimum of 8 U-23 players on the game-day roster per team. Additionally, at least 4 starters per team must be U-23. The last day for player transfers will be June 30th, effectively freezing the roster for Canada Day. During a match, there will be a maximum of 5 substitutions per team. Only minutes ago, BC Soccer confirmed that it will not be a semi-pro league:
— BC Soccer (@1BCSoccer) January 17, 2017
Coaches & assistant coaches have some growing licencing requirements as well. The head coach can have a B-National license in 2018 & 2019, but starting 2020 they must upgrade to an A license. Assistant coaches can start with a B-Provincial license in 2018 & 2019, but must upgrade to a B-National license for 2020. This is great news as it demonstrates that BC Soccer is looking to increase the quality of the coaches & the team quickly to get it up to the same level as L1O & PLSQ. There is no official word yet on if/how BCRT3 will join up with the D3-Interprovincial Cup, but I’m sure they’re far more focused on just getting up and running at this point.
The information is still fresh, and there’s a lot more to the documents including potential cash-flow projections, ownership net worth requirements, and even what minimum front office staff must exist and must be paid. Interested parties have until March 31st, 2017 to submit their pre-application to BC Soccer. It will be interesting to see who steps forward to be a part of the new league, and whether CSA will force Victoria Highlanders FC & TSS FC Rovers to move over from the PDL as it did for teams in Ontario & Quebec.