More HPL news (and opinion)

UPDATE: Nov 12
– Heard something interesting yesterday. Could be some differences of opinion between the Whitecaps, BCSA and clubs over what NTC and Prospects will look like under a model where HPL is the dominant player in the proposed new environment. The Caps had something on their website related to this that quickly got taken down… Turns out it was a old document that pre-dates HPL discussions that was put up mistakenly.

There’s definitely a hunger out there for information on the proposed High Performance League that is being hashed out by a committee composed of Whitecaps staff, BCSA staff, club Technical Directors and District volunteers. Searches related to HPL consistently outnumber anything else in terms of traffic coming to this website and I’ve really only posted small bits of info that I’ve been made aware of.

Since there’s considerable interest I’ll point out that the minutes from the last committee meeting are available here.

There’s a few interesting details that allow people interested to get a good glimpse at how it may all look in the end.

As discussed earlier, the new league started with a few notions in mind and two of those seem to be confirmed now. The first, which is long overdue, is getting rid of restrictions on where players can play. It’s proposed that the rule limiting teams to three out of district players will be scrapped for this new league. This empowers motivated players and forces whatever franchises end up in the league to be accountable and offer a good environment as they no longer have a captive market that would find it difficult to play elsewhere if they weren’t happy.

The second is that the league will follow the rest of Canada and be a Feb/March to Oct/Nov season. It was made apparent by the inclusion of a spot on the committee for a Y League rep that there is a lot of respect for what Y League policies have brought to local soccer. Along with being the only youth league in BC not to have restrictions on where players can play, it is also a spring/summer league and it has shown that there is demand for this season and it can work.

The last initial talking point when the committee was formed was that Metro was a bloated league, at some age groups anyways, and there had to be fewer teams and more control over who could put teams in. This is where it will get very interesting as the committee is getting closer to releasing the criteria for getting a ‘franchise’ in the HPL.

It’s widely believed that most want each age group limited to eight teams. You can safely assume that one will be from Vancouver Island and one will be based out of Kelowna now that a spring/summer season is agreed upon. That leaves six franchises for the Lower Mainland. There was talk of there being five or six but they will of course want an even number so there’s no byes.

Of those six, Abbotsford, Metro Ford and Surrey United are locks. That leaves three franchises to be awarded. Already there is chatter that Surrey should get a second one and that it should logically be based out of Surrey FC. After that, it could end up looking somewhat like how the Whitecaps divvied up Y League franchises. Vancouver, Richmond, Delta and maybe the south Surrey clubs could, a la Coastal FC, potentially work together to get a franchise while the Mountain FC clubs on the North Shore and Burnaby also combine forces. That would carve up the Lower Mainland into reasonable chunks without forcing players to travel too far if they wanted to play at this level.

This really is all conjecture though and whatever partnerships are formed in the pursuit of HPL franchises are primarily going to be based around the criteria that will soon be released. Given the prominence of Abbotsford, Metro Ford and Surrey United at the committee level you can expect that the criteria will closely mirror the strengths of those three clubs and that a central locaton for games with excellent playing surfaces and a feeder system into HPL age groups will be mandatory. An overall critical mass of players and professional technical staff will also be givens. That puts the likes of Vancouver FC and Burnaby Selects at a severe disadvantage as they only run U14 to U18 teams.

Even more telling is that despite it being November and no one knows who is going to be in the league yet, they are planning for a March 2012 start. That sounds like they’re leaving themselves lots of time to get ready until you read further that this will be preceded by a Sept 2011 to December 2011 exhibition season that will bridge into the official 2012 launch of the HPL. Unless they’re going to allow players to play on a regular club team and an HPL exhibition schedule team (which is very hard to believe) for the fall of 2011, that means that, based on the regular tryout/evaluation schedule, players will be joining these new HPL teams in the spring  of 2011. That’s about six months from now.

It’s going to be a painful transition for a lot of players, teams and clubs but from the information coming out it will be a very positive step forward.

The second wave of considerations is how will it affect the clubs and their other leagues below HPL when the top tier of play is a March to October season, with evaluations likely in January and pre-season prep in February, given that we currently play a September to March/April season at the moment? Will everyone gradually switch over to the same dates as HPL? Will Metro continue to exist but as a second tier league?

Feel free to leave comments, info and opinions regarding anything related to HPL in the comments section below.

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10 Responses to More HPL news (and opinion)

  1. Colin Elmes says:

    This environment needs two tiers( see Elite Club National League on the girls side in the US). Promotion, relegation. Establish a minimum criteria( part of which includes teams in all genders and ages) with 12 to 16 spots(franchises?) available. Have a qualifying tournament- 4 team round robin over two week period. charge a fee per team. HPL puts some $ in the bank. Top two teams from division in HPL 1, bottom 2 in HPL2. Home and away, plus an FA Cup style competiton across both divs. For this to be successful it CANNOT have Clubs with enititlement to HPL1 every season if they finish bottom. Sound familar? try the rest of the world structure( and our Metro Senior leagues locally) . Lets not re invent the wheel here. We are not good enoght at this to do it.

  2. Gregor says:

    Promotion/relegation is a very tricky thing to integrate into kids’ soccer. Factor in what are likely to be economic considerations if this is a ‘pro coach’ environment and you very quickly have a scenario where if (a) player fees are relatively low, there’s likely to be more players per squad to keep a certain revenue base. If a team gets into a relegation battle, the first thing they’ll do is shorten their bench and now you have a large squad with quite a few of them barely seeing the pitch; or (b) player fees are high to allow for a similar revenue base with fewer players per squad. Now the relegation battle affects fewer players if the bench is shortened but you have irate parents who paid top $ and their kid barely sees the pitch because of the pressure to win.

    Yes, competition for spots at the highest level is important but generally that’s in the context of competing with teammates for reasonable amounts of playing time and not competing against the idea of relegation if results are going the wrong way. How many minutes will a very capable, but not quite a starter, centre back get in a series of very close 0-0, 1-0 games down the stretch when every point counts to stay in the league?

    Even the “Soccer Mom” video above pokes fun at the idea of limiting playing time in the pursuit of results (granted that’s in the context of mini/recreational soccer) but I still contend that a promotion/relegation system is only workable with parameters in place that either call for a maximum squad size of 16 or stipulate minimum playing time rules, especially for U13 to U16.

    Worst case scenario sees a U13 team with high expectations that is carrying 18 players get off to a bad start and start having to chase results early in the season. The coach is under pressure and he/she knows the depth on the team drops off a cliff after the 14th player. That’s four players who are good enough to be picked for a team in a very rarefied league that will get minimal playing time for potentially long periods of time.

    • Colin Elmes says:

      Good points Gregor. Very sensitive and Canadian of you:-)

      Yes the user pay side of all of this does creat some issues. As you know, my organisation has been user pay for 14 years and we have learned to manage this side of the equation quite well when it comes to accountability.

      Bottom line here. No one single Club should be given a guaranteed access to such a league if the league is truly breaking new ground in the strained player development that currently resides here in the lower mainland. Let this accountability be answered on the field, not in a boardroom. Same with entry. The HPL committe is so worried about transparency and who gets in. Qualifying is the only transparent way

  3. David Joseph says:

    Interesting. An interesting question is what is happening with the Whitecaps commitment to fund this new HPL. There seemed to be a really strong commitment with a mention of $3,000,000 at one meeting. Is this on the table or off. If it is on, great. If it is off the table, when are we going to be told of this change in plans.
    Your comment about VFC not having a pool of younger players is an interesting viewpoint when you consider that this team has a pool consisting of all the players from all the clubs in Vancouver. VFC was set up by VYSA to enter teams in the highest leagues. Vancouver clubs do not enter Metro/Select teams but direct their players to VFC and that would give it one of the largest pools available. Guess it depends on how one “chooses” to view things and that choice could be depend on one’s motive.

    • Gregor says:

      You’re missing two points David. One is that the HPL Committee is about to release a set of criteria for getting a franchise in the new league. It doesn’t matter if you or I think the Vancouver clubs are the feeder system for VFC or not. The criteria they set will trump however either one of us view that. Secondly, you should ask around VFC. They’re already seeing the writing on the wall and trying to figure out who they should partner with to increase their odds of getting a franchise.

      Personally speaking, I don’t think those running the HPL want anything to do with a setup that sees nine clubs running U6 to 12 and a small club taking the players at that point. It’s just not an appealing model. Vancouver may have the numbers overall but it’s highly fractured and that’s likely to be a consideration when it all gets spelled out.

      You just have to do the math. Three franchises to cover the North Shore, Burnaby, Vancouver, Richmond, Delta, South Surrey. Assume Chilliwack will go to Abby, Tri-Cities and Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge to Metro Ford and a good chunk of Surrey (but maybe not enough to justify just one franchise there) to Surrey United. Langley will likely split between a Surrey franchise and Abby. If Vancouver gets its own franchise, it means the rest is split along Y League lines with North Shore and Bby getting one, Rmd south to White Rock getting another and the rest of Surrey being pushed to Surrey United. Could come down to a scenario where it’s either Surrey FC or Vancouver getting that last spot. Possible but I know there’s no way Vancouver is a lock to get its own.

      Interesting points about the Caps financial involvement in the league. Hadn’t heard about any money, especially that much, moving to the league from the Whitecaps.

  4. Colin Elmes says:

    The biggest question here is where is the HPL going to find 80 qualified and experienced coaches? As a full time person in this game I have seen enough of what is out there to know we do not currently come even close to providing appropriate people who will give all of these players the sophistication they deserve ( and to match the user fees being paid). Players’ experiences in this environment will be woefully inconsistent many being unacceptable.

    • Gregor says:

      I know. It’s not the deepest talent pool. …You just have to look at some of the people you’ve hired at TSS over the years 😉

  5. Colin Elmes says:

    Yes. Like you 😉

  6. Colin Elmes says:

    Good luck against all the top teams from the US. Oh I forgot, they are all in the Elite Club National League now. Good luck anyways. Bring home the Cup! 🙂

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