USL PDL soccer will be returning to the lower mainland this coming season, two seasons after Vancouver Whitecaps wrapped up their side following the formation of WFC2.
TSS Rovers have bought Redmond based Washington Crossfire, who have played in the PDL since 2009, and will move the team north of the border to join fellow Canadian sides Calgary Foothills and Victoria Highlanders in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference.
The new team will play out of Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, in a move that is bound to excite a number of long time and hardcore ‘Caps fans who long for the sunny Swanny barbecues in the park from the D2 era.
Run by Richmond based TSS Soccer Centre, the Rovers will provide another missing link in the development of talented BC players, who find themselves with limited opportunities once their youth and college careers wrap up.
TSS Academy was founded in 1997 as one of the first pay-per-use soccer academies in the Lower Mainland. Over that time, TSS has become the most established and successful youth soccer academy in the province, boasting over 600 players annually from all parts of the Lower Mainland and beyond.
Thousands of players have come through TSS Academy over the years, with many using TSS as a stepping stone to greater success in the game, including Christine Sinclair, Terry Dunfield, and current Whitecaps MLS midfielder Ben McKendry.
TSS also run an 11-month program, TSS FC, for a select number of players, fielding eight teams on the boys and girls side from U11 up to U18 level.
The problem has always been what happens to these players when their youth careers have wrapped up. It’s hard enough for many in the Whitecaps system. Despite the clear pathway for players within the ‘Caps, we see a high attrition rate of those who simply don’t make it in the adult game. For players outwith the Whitecaps organisation, there’s an even smaller chance of making the grade.
TSS Rovers are hoping to add another rung for these young players in what is a key stage of their development in the transition from the youth to adult game.
AFTN will be working closely with the new TSS team this coming season, which kicks off on Friday May 5th. We’ll be bringing you the best coverage of the team around and we caught up with Colin Elmes, TSS FC Rovers owner and head coach, to take a more detailed look at BC’s newest team.
AFTN: TSS have been a strong producer of youth talent in the area for years now. What’s behind the decision to take the step into the adult game at this time?
COLIN ELMES: Ultimately the decision to purchase professional soccer teams in North America can never be seen as prudent business, but for TSS Academy and TSS FC we felt it necessary to continue to pursue solutions rather than hope or demand of others. TSS FC wants to provide Canadian kids and Canadian coaches an opportunity to grow. It is as simple as that. Be a solution to supporting Canada get to the next level, have some fun along the way, and provide a place where our community can take emotional ownership of the Rovers.
AFTN: What was it in particular about the PDL that made that the most attractive option for you as opposed to say PCSL or even VMSL?
The truth is there are many options but for us the PDL was a really great balance between cost effective budgets, a truly fantastic platform to showcase Canadian talent with wonderful competition, and still at a professional level our fans and community will want to gather to watch and participate in the experience.
AFTN: You’ve bought an existing team from Washington and moved them up to BC. How smooth or rough a process has that been for you in terms of sanctioning and all the other legal ramifications with it being a cross border purchase and league?
It has been very interesting. Because it is ultimately a professional club we have had to be signed off at every single level from BC soccer to the CSA but also including CONCACAF and now even FIFA! Kind of cool really. It has been hard paper work slogging but in the end smooth enough and the former owners have been a joy to work with as they truly care that the franchise ended up in soccer people’s hands.
AFTN: With WFC2, the talk is always development first and any success that comes out of that is the cherry on top. Is that how you’re looking at this team or is the goal to bring home Championships?
We are a Canadian soccer club. It is all about developing players. From their technical ability to their resilience to their community involvement. The aim is development but that will always include the team aspiring to win games and championships but never in spite of development. The goals can co-exist if you know why you formed your club in the first place.
AFTN: Now TSS obviously produces a number of homegrown players. Is that what you’re seeing as the make up of players in the team or are you looking for the best available talent that BC soccer has to offer from colleges and elsewhere?
For season one we will be aiming to find the best local players whether they be college or not. The league allows as many as 8 overage players but we will try not to overdo the use of those players as we want TSS FC Rovers to be a place where up and coming players can showcase their talent and learn what is necessary for the next level.
Our mix will be largely University level players who have played a year or two, or whom may just be going. Over time we’ll sprinkle in some of our younger boys players as they mature, but for now we’ll look for players all over the region.
AFTN: Bringing the team to Swangard is something that will excite some of the Whitecaps fans from the D2 era. What made you pick Burnaby as your home? And tell us a little bit about the branding of the team.
We have played there ourselves and we have been a part of those old 86er days so we are as enamoured by Swangard as our potential fan base. It is the most beautiful football field in the city and our players will be lucky to play in front of some happy fans in a great facility that suits us down to the ground. Close to all types of transport and near to loads of youth clubs, for us it was a no brainer and something we worked tirelessly on to start with.
Our colours will be red and black with alternates in white and black. Our current youth TSS FC boys set up uses these colours and since it is their club, we will have them look similar. Sharp and tight TSS FC Rovers!
AFTN: Since the initial rumours surfaced south of the border, there’s been a bit of buzz amongst supporters looking to come to games and even set up supporters sections with tifo. Basically the chance to support something that isn’t Whitecaps and feels more personal to them. What would your message be to the fans that want to come out and support the team and how important is getting those bums on seats to you from the start?
We are generally amazed at the interest since it is the worst kept secret in soccer, but this is a point we will make sure everyone knows; we are simply stewards. This is a club for the community. It is their club to own. Our goals and values are about supporting Canadian kids, Canadian coaches and our community. The fans will be a big part of teaching our players to play under pressure, to play with eyes upon them and ready them for the next level, wherever that might be.
TSS FC fans need to demand of us and ask questions we will need to answer, but ultimately they also must hold others around them to account and provide our club the best atmosphere we can all muster. The fans are not seen as a line item on our financials, they are quite rightly the owners of this club. We grow together.
AFTN: What’s your hopes for the team in the first year?
Well, we hope to find support in the community to help us sustain the club, we hope to fill the stadium a few times, to learn what our fans want to see, and we hope to show off some wonderful football with a fantastic atmosphere.
The full PDL schedule will be announced in the coming weeks, along with ticket details for TSS FC Rovers matches. In the meantime, you can follow the club on Twitter @TSSRovers.