There is a reason they had to scrap u18 and its because by that age kids and parents realize they have other options to play at a lower cost and still get potentially noticed.
25 kids at training sessions jammed into a small portion of the field.
They had to scrap u13 as many teams were picking kids at 12 and never turning over the roster.
Once you had a spot unless you really messed it up you had a spot for good even if better players came for a assesment.
Low turnover and little room for kids that start to blossom at age 14 and 15 to get a spot.
I called it years ago that vmsl u21 would become the new youth league for kids 16 to 19 and its exactly whats happening.
At 16 or 17 they need to be playing better competion than the BCSPL can provide.
There is a wait list for teams and clubs now trying to get a u21 spot in the vmsl.
Trend now will be for the bcspl clubs to try and get u21 spots and charge high fees to play.
Problem for these clubs is the private academies and clubs can also get spots and charge less thus attracting more players.
Even BC soccer has told the u18s to try and find a spot on a u21 team.
Vmsl u21 was a dieing division at one point and now is set to take off. Its essentially now gonna be a youth division. There was nothing BC soccer could do to stop it so they embraced it before they got embarrassed when no kids were left to play.
Also keep in mind the shift to u21 was not initated by vmsl or bc soccer.
It was more done by clubs that were telling 16 and 17 year old good players to join their u21 program thus reducing the u18 bcspl pool.
Clubs saw a chance to fill a void for players not happy with bcspl and private academies saw a way for their kids to play outside bcspl in a proper league.
I am not 100 percent sure of this but talking to one coach many of the schools now prefer and want kids to being playing in these u21 type leagues to better prepare for post secondary game as opposed to bcspl.
Anyway, the BCSPL has been a perfectly good vehicle for player development at the older ages. Our girls have racked up scholarships stateside and our teams have generally done well at nationals. From a MUFC perspective, we've taken teams down to legit college showcase tourneys in Arizona and Nevada and acquitted ourselves very well. Sorry, not buying that the BCSPL wasn't the right vehicle.
If that is no longer the case, I rather suspect it's because the league has expanded from eight franchises to about double that, as far as I can tell. Myself, I would have stuck to the eight franchises but put real effort into reducing the costs involved for the players good enough for the level. Instead, BC appears to have capitulated to the for-profit academies and any little club that's prepared to parrot back their "cradle to grave" mantra.
@mtkb I agree that limiting the number of teams is the only way to ensure the standard of play is kept high. The problem is that out of the original 8 franchises, only Mountain, SU, and CMF were consistently well run across genders and age groups.
I think the Canada National License is fine as a benchmark to mean you are eligible to have teams in bcspl, but there should be some further criteria at each age/gender division that allows individual teams from eligible clubs to be added/removed.
Teams getting blown out by double digits every week isn't helpful for anyone.
Coastal was legit as well... but yeah, Fusion, FV, the Island and Interior all struggled...
It didn't help that SU ate FV's lunch by partnering with the better of the Langley outfits... never did figure out Fusion's futility... the other two were probably more a function of numbers than anything else...
Very, very rare that I agree with BC Soccer on anything they do, but I completely agree with this move.
The comment earlier about kids getting a spot at u13 and then having that spot forever regardless of declining ability/improving other players pushing for spots was bang on. Also I have say waiting to start 11 v 11 until u14 would be smart. I have been banging that drum for years. Keep it small, get the kids touches on the ball.
At the other end, I have coached u18 SPL and there is a lot going on for the players that year. Some, you can tell, are kind of done with soccer (ie not pushing to anything beyond the Langaras and Douglases of the world, if that), or maybe they want to get into a top school where they won't be able to get a scholarship, etc. There are grad activities and trips and all types of distractions.
The best players that are pushing to go somewhere in footy are already on the radar at Universities, L1BC, etc. There are Prem and Div. 1 environments that they can step into (at lower cost) that will provide good learning and where, importantly, they will not be the best players at the level any longer.
Whether u21 grows or not is still a question mark. As noted, there has been an uptick in interest, but only in the VMSL. BC Soccer torpedoed u21 provincials because VISL and FVSL are not even operating u21 divisions. But there are still places for casual players to play at u18 be it u21 or simply Metro.
Metro won't be around for too much longer either - it's being phased out a year at a time. Hard to believe (or maybe not), but the talent pool isn't deep enough to support 13 SPL clubs, Metro, and all the academies. So the middle gets dropped out, Div. 1 youth ball gets (maybe) a bit stronger, and SPL stays its uneven self.
I'm of two minds on U21. On one side, we've been trying to get the 2nd U21 level of play for kids who weren't SPL or Metro off the ground for a few years, but there haven't been enough other clubs buying in to make it viable. On the other side, if you want your 16 and 17 year olds (or even 18 year old grads) to play at the best possible level, is U21 really it? I'm honestly not sure anymore...