The Canadian Soccer Pyramid is not the most straightforward. Currently, the top is dominated by MLS, which is then followed by NASL & USL. In Canada, 3rd division is for regional leagues, like League 1 Ontario (L1O) and La Premiere Ligue de Soccer du Quebec (PLSQ). In play quality, these Canadian 3rd division leagues sit below USL, and also slightly below PDL, but they are improving significantly from year to year. Today, I’m going to focus on Quebec’s league.
The PLSQ has been around since 2012, when it was organized by the Quebec Soccer Federation to sit as the region’s 3rd division. Since that time, the league has fluctuated slightly in size and team make-up, including two seasons with an Ontario-based side, the now defunct Ottawa Fury Academy. Entering its 6th season of play, the PLSQ has solidified its style of season into something that will seem foreign to most people accustomed to North American preferences.
What’s the most glaring difference? There are no play-offs. Like most European leagues, the team with the most points at the end of the season is crowned the champion. Also like most European leagues, the champion qualifies to play a higher-level tournament (more on this in a minute). In both 2015 & 2016, CS Mont-Royal Outremont was crowned champion. Sadly, according to CSMRO, if a team wins the season early, the following matches are treated as though they don’t matter:
If a team has the main goal in sight, loosing [sic] the FA Cup (PLSQ Cup) is not at all important. If the championship is settled and you only play half the squad against Blainville, it should not weight at all in the standings. Your standings should weight in the fact that once the league is in the pocket, a team will manage the squad to finish the season without injuries and play the Champions League [Interprovincial Cup] with all the pieces intact. – Luc Brutus, CSMRO President, Nov 2016
The Interprovincial Cup started in 2014, with the winners of Canadian 3rd division leagues participating. At the moment, this is just a home & away match against the top-team from L1O, but the potential is there for this competition to grow should BC, Alberta, or any of the other provinces finally get 3rd division regional leagues established. There’s also nothing to say this won’t someday be extended into a proper competition with multiple teams from either league. Generally, L1O has dominated this competition, but faced an upset this year at the hands of PLSQ’s CS Mont-Royal Outremont. Generally, the Interprovincial Cup seems to be treated like a qualification match for entry into the Canadian Championship, although as of this time no Canadian D3 teams are permitted to compete.
Additionally, the PLSQ holds a cup competition throughout the year. Like L1O’s Cup competition, PLSQ’s cup competition consists of a series of knock-out rounds. Unlike L1O, the round winners are determined on aggregate from home & away matches, much like the Canadian Championship. To make it even more unique, the final eschews the home & away aggregate format and is instead a single-match, winner takes all. Since the PLSQ Cup competition runs parallel to the league’s matches, it’s entirely possible for there to be a different winner than the league champion. In 2014, league champions CS Longueuil lost in the Cup final to FC Gatineau. 2015 saw Lakeshore SC (now defunct) as the Cup Champion, while AS Blainville took the cup in 2016. League champions, CS Mont-Royal Outremont, lost the final in 2015 and fell in the 2016 semi-finals.
Within the PLSQ, AS Blainville is the only club that has remained since the league’s inception. CS Mont-Royal Outremont joined in 2013, as did two clubs that have since renamed in order to represent their regional association: FC Lanaudiere was originally FC L’Assomption, and AS Hull was originally FC Gatineau. CS Longueuil joined the following year. In 2017, the PLSQ welcomed Dynamo de Quebec as its first team from the Quebec City region, and CS St Hubert. CS Mont-Royal Outremont and AS Blainville were juggernauts in 2016, dominating with 14-2-2 and 11-4-3 records. We can look forward to them trying to dominate once again in 2017.
The PLSQ, being in French-language Quebec, has been grossly under reported in the past. NSXI has always included them in our ELO ratings, but we haven’t really been able to cover them. Hopefully this will be changing in 2017, as we continue to reach out to English-capable soccer fans in Quebec for help reporting on their constantly improving 3rd division. If you’re near one of these teams in Quebec, or eager to watch their online feed and volunteer to provide us with match reports or commentary, please get in contact with us: firstname.lastname@example.org . PLSQ fills an important void in Canada’s soccer pyramid, and we want to help keep Voyageurs aware of their continuing growth and progress.