NANAIMO – Professional soccer is coming to Vancouver Island in 2019 with Pacific FC starting play in the seven team Canadian Premier League.
The league will start up in the spring of 2019 and there will be opportunities for Nanaimo and central island players to be a part of the inaugural squad.
On October 20 representatives of Pacific FC took to the field at Beban Park looking to get the word out about the new club while hosting skill development workshops for local youth players who are part of the Nanaimo United program.
Pacific FC will have international and Canadian players, but there will be spots for home grown Vancouver Island talent to be a part of the squad as well.
The Nanaimo workshop last Saturday was the first of 20 that will be coming to cities up and down the Island.
None of the 10-17 year olds who were on the field will be a part of Pacific FC when they start their inaugural season but as Nanaimo United coach Geoff Hackett explains, it's about letting kids know there are now soccer options for them to play at home, and play professionally.
“There's a local opportunity for kids to start to strive for which hasn't existed before. It's an exciting way to bring more higher level soccer to the local region,” said Hackett.
Putting on a clinic in Nanaimo was special for Pacific FC assistant coach James Merriman.
He played for Nanaimo United in grades 11 and 12 and now he's able to come back to showcase a whole new level of soccer to young players in the city.
Merriman says the new pro team will also be looking to fill some specific roles with local talent in the 18-23 year-old range who have shown potential and are hungry to play at a high level.
“Then we want to get around and do these clinics so we can start to work with all the youth clubs and hopefully in a few years we see players coming out of Nanaimo, Duncan, Comox, Campbell River – that would be the dream.” said Merriman.
Pacific FC co-owner and president Josh Simpson says the squad which will start their first every season in April is a team for the Island.
He went to elementary school in Qualicum Beach and also spend time in Langford, but to fulfill his dream of playing professional soccer he had to go elsewhere.
That included playing collegiately in the U.S. and stops in England, Germany, Turkey, and Switzerland.
As the only CPL team in British Columbia Simpson says the goal of Pacific FC is to develop BC players and to provide a pathway for elite soccer athletes on Vancouver Island.
The profile of soccer does appear to be growing because of MLS, the success of the Canadian Women's National Team, and the 2026 World Cup which will see games coming to Canada.
Simpson was blown away by the interest in Nanaimo where they expected 40 kids to attend the clinic and ended up with 80.
Pacific FC will be based of out Langford with their home matches being played out of Westhills Stadium.
Simpson says a $10-million investment is being made into the stadium to turn it into a 6,000 seat venue with all the bells and whistles of modern professional sports.
The other teams in the first season will be based out of Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, York (near Toronto), Hamilton, and Halifax.
There are plans to add three more franchises in 2020.
Coming up on November 5-6 there are open trials for Pacific FC.
Simpson says they are already sold out on Vancouver Island and similar tryouts are full across the country as well.
“If you're good and you're playing here on the Island, we know you,” said Simpson.
The next youth clinic is coming up shortly with another day session in Parksville on Sunday November 4.
James Merriman is confident last week's session in Nanaimo will be the first of many in the Harbour City as Pacific FC looks to help shape the next generation of athletes for their club and to perhaps one day play internationally for Canada as well.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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