Another platform has emerged in Calgary for local talented soccer players to continue their path to a potential professional career.
On March 13, the Alberta Soccer Association (ASA) announced that Canadian Premier League clubs Cavalry FC and FC Edmonton will place U20 development teams into the Alberta Major Soccer League (AMSL) for the 2019 season.
“We’re in the midst of an exciting time for soccer in our province, as we look forward to the CPL launching this spring and welcoming the football world to Alberta in 2026,” said Shawn Lowther, executive director of ASA, in a statement.
“Embracing these development teams in the AMSL provides an excellent opportunity to help homegrown players populate FC Edmonton and Cavalry FC first teams, as well as developing Alberta players for future Canadian men’s national teams.”
There are a couple of reasons why this is an exciting announcement, both for Cavalry FC, and for soccer in Alberta in general.
Much like the VMSL in Metro Vancouver and the VISL on Vancouver Island, the AMSL is the top men’s amateur soccer league in Alberta. The league runs from May until August, with competing teams from Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge.
While the calibre of the AMSL is low compared to what the CPL should hopefully provide, there are still plenty of talented players sprinkled throughout the league.
Last year, some of the players who were featuring in the AMSL included University of Alberta standout Easton Ongaro (Cavalry FC draft pick), Tyrin Hutchings (former PDL player with Foothills FC U23 and Vancouver Whitecaps FC U23), Dominic Russo (Calgary Dinos and Foothills FC U23 all-time leading scorer), Connor James (FC Edmonton draft pick) and Graham Fisher (former Rotweiss Erfurt and Schalke 04 academy player).
Martin Nash, Cavalry FC’s first-team coach and technical director, said the announcement bodes well for Calgary’s new professional club, as well as for talented youngsters in the city.
“At the club, we’re trying to create a ‘path to pro’ and we’re trying to get the youth out of youth at the right time – the ones who are ready,” he said.
“The AMSL is a perfect league to test those players. They need to play against seasoned men to keep progressing their game.”
Nash said Cavalry FC’s U20 roster will mainly consist of local talent, with the majority coming either straight out of Calgary’s youth soccer system, or after completing their first year of university soccer.
He said the team will train or play four times per week for the first season, and confirmed that players who excel in the AMSL with the U20s will earn the opportunity to train – or even play – with either the Foothills FC U23 USL2 team or even the Cavalry first team.
“Yes, there is potential for that,” he said. “Especially with training, if a player is doing very well and we feel they’re ready to be tested in a professional environment, we definitely will look to bring them into training to push them further.”
Nash said the coach for Cavalry’s AMSL team is still to be determined.
“We’ll be hiring a coach for that team and we’ll bring in an assistant,” he said. “I’ll be there coaching once or twice a week, as well as potentially, one of our senior players.
“We’ll bring a coach in that will be connected to our first team… so we have the same culture and playing philosophy.”
Another reason this announcement is exciting is because it will hopefully boost the profile of the AMSL. While the VISL and VMSL have decent followings in B.C., the AMSL has virtually zero fanbase, with most games only featuring a small smattering of fans in attendance (usually girlfriends and family members, and the like).
Nash agreed that having Alberta’s new CPL teams competing in the AMSL could help increase local interest the league, such as when FC Edmonton (of the NASL days) had its academy team play exhibition fixtures against the rest of the league in 2012.
“It would be good, with our teams coming in, to get that notoriety for the league and to help grow the league,” he said.
“In recent years, it maybe hasn’t been as well-known, but it’s a really good league, and bringing more attention to it with these programs will be great for us and the league.”
The addition of two teams will also increase the length of the AMSL’s season. According to the ASA, accommodating the increased number of teams will mean there will be 17 fixtures (as compared to last year’s 14) and the season will begin earlier, on May 1.
You can find out more about the Alberta Major Soccer League, teams, and fixtures, at albertamsl.com.