McArthur Island becoming big draw for soccer events

Kamloops Daily News
February 3, 2012 01:00 AM

The McArthur Island soccer complex is making Kamloops a popular spot for major championships.

It's the biggest reason that Kamloops will play host to a pair of big-time events over the next two years, said Keith Liddiard, executive director for the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association.

The first event, the B.C. A Cup championships, will run July 5-8, with the Canadian under-16 championships to follow in the fall of 2013.

Both will be played on McArthur Island, which now features nine full-size fields and is getting the reputation as being one of the top soccer facilities in the province.

"Let me put it this way," Liddiard said, "the B.C. Soccer Association came to us and asked if we would host (the A Cup tournament).

"Normally, we would have had to go through a bid process."

The BCSA is no stranger to the McArthur Island facilities - in 2010, the provincial A Cup tournament was held in Kamloops, and apparently was a huge hit.

This is good news for KYSA and the community, Liddiard said, as the opportunity is there for more provincial and national events to come to Kamloops.

"A lot of high-profile soccer people have seen the top-quality facility at McArthur Island and see the potential for more high-level soccer events coming to Kamloops," he said.

Liddiard said everything about Kamloops and the McArthur Island facility is appealing to organizing bodies.

The city always gets excellent soccer weather during the summer, and has a large volunteer base eager to help out. And the Island's nine grass fields - all within walking distance of each other - certainly don't hurt, nor does the shape in which City employees keep those fields.

"I've been involved in soccer in B.C. for 35 years," said Liddiard, who joined KYSA in 2008. "And I've never had such great co-operation as we get from the City and their staff."

As busy as McArthur Island usually is during the summer months, it will be especially busy during the A Cup tournament, which will feature 10 divisions - girls U13 to U18, and boys U13, U14, U16 and U18.

There is a different format this year than in years past, Liddiard said.

When Kamloops played host in 2010, there was only one game per division - a winner-take-all provincial showdown between the Interior champion and the Coastal champion.

In July, there will be four teams in each division - an Interior champion, two Coastal champions and an Island champion. Each team will play three round-robin games, and there might be playoffs - that hasn't been determined yet - meaning at least 60 games will be played over the four days.

Kamloops teams will have to win the Interior championship in order to qualify for the A Cup tournament.

"(Kamloops is) not guaranteed spots, so we'll have to play off against other challengers to qualify," Liddiard said. "So not counting our teams that might qualify, there might be 35 out of 40 teams coming from out of the city."

The dates of the 2013 U16 championships have yet to be finalized because organizers are looking to move the dates forward. The tournament traditionally has been held over Thanksgiving weekend in October, but might be pushed ahead into September to avoid weather disruptions.

When Kelly Shantz took a U16 girls team to nationals in Winnipeg in 2009, bad weather caused delays and eventually forced some games to be played indoors at the U of Manitoba.

There will be 24 teams at nationals - 12 boys and 12 girls - but none of them from Kamloops.

"We applied on the premise of the host getting a team in the tournament," Liddiard said.

Starting this summer, however, the B.C. Premier League champions will compete at national tournaments, as opposed to the A Cup champions. Thompson-Okanagan FC, a regional team based in Kelowna, competes in the BCPL.

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