Soccer identity in the Pacific Northwest region

Soccer identity in the Pacific Northwest region

On March 23 Marc Dos Santos was on the Halford & Brough show on TSN Radio discussing the current state of Canadian soccer. A variety of topics came up including the importance of building a strong soccer culture in the country.

According to MDS, “The cultural side of the game is something that is still missing a lot in North America, not only in Canada but also in the US. Our love for the game is still very superficial.”

The way a young player grows and becomes a successful professional is by being steeped in soccer culture throughout their life. Again, Dos Santos, “That allows also the player to develop and become better when his passion for the game is not only superficial, it’s also on the cultural side. And again, we have it in hockey. And that’s why in hockey we’re the best in the world.

“In soccer, it’s still not there. Not only in Canada, but also in the US. It’s superficial and it’s not something that we can create through a powerpoint or create through speech. It’s something that comes through a lot of time. Hopefully the 2026 World Cup is going to help.”

It is important that we realize the history of soccer in Canada runs deep. The sport has been played on these shores for well over 100 years. The Pacific Northwest region shares in this history too and I wrote an article for AFTN not too long ago giving a brief overview of the history of soccer in this region.

Tapping into this treasure trove of history, symbolism, and meaning will help speed up the cultural distribution of soccer, as it is easier for the people living here to recognize themselves and their personal stories in this emerging soccer identity we are collectively trying to create.

The Cascadia Cup

One of my favourite truly Pacific Northwest experiences in soccer is the Cascadia Cup.

The three MLS teams from the Cascadian region – Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers – have competed for this trophy since 2004, with the team with the best head-to-head record in regular season matches between these Pacific Northwest rivals wins the cup.

The Cascadia Cup was founded when all three teams were still competing in the first division of the USL. At that time the fan bases of the teams came together to create the cup and all three teams competed for the trophy until the Sounders made the move to MLS in 2009, leaving the Whitecaps and Timbers to battle it out in 2009 and 2010. With all the teams back in the same league by 2011 after making the move to MLS, the competition’s three team format returned and has been going strong ever since.

There have been a few interesting mini documentaries made about this rivalry. It even got some attention in a segment from The National on CBC.

With the close geographical proximity between these three cities, the Cascadia Cup offers the opportunity for some really fun Pacific Northwest derbies. Away supporters are able to travel to the opponent’s stadium in large numbers, creating highly charged atmospheres as the two groups of fans chant back and forth at each other while cheering for their team.

The Cascadia Cup is definitely a huge part of the soccer culture in our region and it is something worth acknowledging and celebrating.

The Juan de Fuca Plate

One of the gems of the Pacific Northwest has to be the Juan de Fuca Plate, and no, I’m not talking about the earth’s crust and earthquakes here.

The Juan de Fuca Plate is a trophy that is distinctively Pacific Northwest.

It was founded in 2012 by supporters of the Victoria Highlanders and Vancouver Whitecaps U23 teams. The trophy has traditionally been contested between teams from BC who played in the USL PDL (now USL2). The team with the best head-to-head record between their USL2 rivals from BC is awarded the plate.

For the past few seasons the only two teams from BC playing in USL2 were TSS Rovers and Victoria Highlanders. But for the 2020 season the Highlanders were set to move to the Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL) in preparation for the new League 1 BC to begin in 2021. As you can see from the graphic, the plan was to still have the two teams play each other in a two-legged series this year to determine the winner. That was all before social distancing restrictions were necessary and there is no word yet on what will happen with this competition this season.

With the recent cancellation of the USL2 season, and the uncertain future of where TSS Rovers will play in 2021, a lot is still left to be determined for the future of the Juan de Fuca Plate. But this also gives the region an excellent opportunity to really develop the competition and promotion surrounding this trophy.

Could we one day see future CPL teams from BC compete for the plate? Or will the future League 1 BC use the Juan de Fuca Plate as one of their trophies? Whatever the fate of the plate is, it will always be a piece of Pacific Northwest soccer culture.

Supporters Groups in the Pacific Northwest

Supporter culture is alive and well in this region with multiple groups supporting multiple teams.

The three MLS teams from the Cascadia region have several supporters groups.

Vancouver Whitecaps are supported by the Southsiders, Curva Collective, Rain City Brigade, and a number of smaller groups. Seattle Sounders have their Emerald City Supporters, Gorilla FC, North End Faithful, and Eastside Supporters groups, while Portland Timbers are primarily supported by the Timbers Army.

Outside of the MLS there are the Swanguardians who support TSS Rovers of USL2 and the Lakeside Buoys who support both Pacific FC in the CPL and Victoria Highlanders in the PCSL.

Soccer culture goes online

Although the most productive thing we can all do to build soccer culture in Canada is to get out and support our local teams in person by going to matches, joining the many supporters groups mentioned above if that is your kind of thing, there is no doubt the internet can also lend a hand.

There are numerous examples of players, teams, and other institutions putting out quality content online to help keep the soccer community in Canada connected and engaged. This site is just one of them.

Canada Soccer has kicked off its new Canada Soccer Nation Inside platform containing unique online content for players, coaches, and fans to learn and enjoy. I recently attended one of their free webinars that taught me all about the tactical philosophies utilized by the national team. It was such a cool experience and I will be looking to spot those tactics when the national team eventually gets back to playing!

Vancouver Whitecaps have really been on their social media game during the current shutdown. Whether it’s giving regular health authority updates, or thanking health care workers who are working on the front line, sharing updates from players or just putting out goofy content to make people laugh, the Whitecaps are definitely helping to keep the Vancouver soccer community together.

Recently is was announced that the Whitecaps would have 10 different language accounts on Twitter as a way to ensure they are able to connect with all the diverse soccer loving communities who live in this region.

All over social media teams are posting home skills challenges and encouraging others to try. It doesn’t matter if it’s the big professional teams like the Whitecaps or Pacific FC, or amateur and youth clubs from all over the province, everyone is getting in on the action. These social media posts are usually in the form of short videos of skills challenges or workouts that players can try on their own, or free webinars about tactics and training for players and coaches.

I have enjoyed visiting all the various twitter feeds of the local teams and seeing what they are offering. Almost all teams are on social media these days so take a moment and check them out.

One Soccer continues to turn out quality content for Canadian soccer fans. The sharing of their OneSoccer Stories from across the country will go a long way to solidify Canadian soccer culture. During the pause in league play they have also created a couple of new interview shows: OneSoccer Hangouts and Inside the Game where they interview guests from all over the Canadian soccer landscape, including icons from past and present. Giving guests like this a platform to share their ideas and stories is vital for developing our national soccer identity.

In closing there are two last things I want to share about our shared soccer cultural identity in the Pacific Northwest and in Canada.

The first is a wonderful summation from the TSS Rovers website of what it means to build Canadian leagues and Canadian teams for Canadians. I could not have said it better myself.

The second is the Twitter link below from BC Soccer Web. This message from Bill Currie gives hope and optimism for the future relationship between soccer and Canada. One I’m sure we all want to see succeed and flourish.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Chris Doyle at 15:10

    NB – 2012 PDL Season included Fraser Valley Mariners who also competed for the Juan De Fuca plate. I remember their supporter group pitching on on the cost of the plate, but I could be wrong on that.

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