A brand new semi-pro soccer team will be hitting the pitch in North Vancouver this spring, fielding men’s and women’s teams hoping to do the North Shore proud in a provincewide league.
Altitude FC was recently announced as one of the seven founding member clubs of League1 BC, an elite semi-pro circuit that will begin play in May. The league is meant to fill a gap between amateur circuits such as the Vancouver Metro Soccer League and the top tier Canadian Premier League. Similar semi-pro leagues are already running in Ontario and Quebec.
The team will play at North Vancouver’s Kinsmen Park, with tickets sold at a modest price.
“It's very much intended to be a relaxed, fun summer event with very competitive, serious soccer on the field that people can cheer for. That’s what we’re after,” said Mark Marshall, who is getting the club going along with Faly Basse, Paul Riches and Landon Voth.
The team is scheduled for a 12-game regular season – six at home and six away – against the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, the TSS Rovers, who play out of Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium; the UBC-affiliated Varsity FC, and clubs in Langley, Kamloops and Victoria.
Marshall said Altitude FC is meant to work alongside existing clubs such as North Van FC, West Van FC, and the North Shore Girls Soccer Club, not compete against them. The league’s summer schedule was set specifically so that it doesn’t compete against the typical September through March schedule of the Lower Mainland’s youth and amateur leagues.
“We fully expect that we’ll have players from various clubs on the North Shore,” said Marshall. “We really look at it as a symbiotic relationship.”
As a semi-pro league, there will be the opportunity for some players to earn money playing in League1 BC, although Marshall said that won’t be a big part of the league’s operating model, particularly in the early stages. The league will also skew young – teams will be mandated to have a certain number of U21 players on the field at all times, said Marshall – with university players back home for the summer joining with elite high school players and other talented locals to make up the squad. The club will be holding open tryouts in the new year.
“We kind of expect the age range of the players to be around, sort of, 17 to 25,” he said. “The whole purpose of the league is to be a transition league for players who have aspirations to play professional soccer, but for whatever reason they're just not quite ready yet and they need a bit more maturation and mentoring in a semi-pro environment. … They want to encourage younger players. They're obviously not looking for a bunch of teams with 30-year-olds.”
As for the club’s home field, Kinsmen Park will need some work to get up to a decent hosting standard, but there is a lot of history on that pitch dating back a century, including some legendary squads such as the national championship-winning North Shore United, and the North Shore Colts.
“I don't think people realize that Kinsmen used to draw significant-size crowds and significant calibre players, from the 1920s onwards, and had very successful teams in the '30s, '40s, '50s and even as recently as the '80s with the Colts,” said Marshall. “We're really excited about the opportunity to have this gem, right in the middle of the community that people can bike and walk to. It requires a little bit of investment in it, and so that's something we're talking to the City of North Van about right now.”
The club is hoping to get a new scoreboard set up and expand the bleachers to accommodate up to 1,000 fans. Other game-day perks in the works could include beer gardens beside the pitch, as well as on-site food trucks.
“It’s got tons of potential,” Marshall said about the field. “It just needs a little TLC to bring it to that point. … We've had great support from the city of North Van in terms of that discussion, and encouraging permits and the environment that we can build around Kinsmen so that it feels like that sort of festive environment.”
More details about the team and the league are expected in early 2022.