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Div 1 [VMSL] Div 1 2021/2022 Predictions, Results & Banter

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14 Teams split into 2 divisions

7 Side A Teams:
Columbus
Serbia
GN Sporting
Norvan Sarajevo
Port Moody
Greencaps
Westside United

First games start Friday September 10th

7 Side B Teams
Coastal
MetroFord Lupi
Metro
Rinos Fury
Shaheen
Vancouver Strikers
Westside FC

First games start Friday September 10th
 

Dude

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14 Teams split into 2 divisions

.......

7 Side B Teams
Coastal

MetroFord Lupi
Metro
Rinos Fury
Shaheen
Vancouver Strikers
Westside FC

First games start Friday September 10th
Huh?

So....Coastal and Rinos merge, form Rinos/Coastal in Premier...but in 1st there are two separate clubs?

I would have thought that both would have to be the same "club", no?

Help me understand, @dezza, what is the affiliation? Did Rinos technically already have both a 1st and Premier spot going into the season prior to the merger?
 

Canucks4Ever

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@dezza , this thing on?

Bueller?
Yes Rino's already had Prem and Div. 1.

My understanding is the league, not being happy about essentially being tricked into letting a team directly into Premier, is being stubborn about the naming.

Expect things to be named in a much clearer way next season. I am not aware of an overall general affiliation between Coastal and Rino's, but who knows, perhaps something might be blossoming.

For the record:

Rino's VSC Coastal is the team from FVSL coached by Corrado Lenzi - they will play out of South Surrey Athletic. The VMSL board approved the "merger"/name change for the previous Rino's Vancouver SC team.

Coastal FC in Div. 1 is "Coastal" in name only. The VMSL board would not approve a name change for the Coastal team that applied for entry into the league. However, it will be coached by Blaise Nkufo and play out of Trillium.

Rino's Fury remain in Division 1, operating as usual.
 

Dude

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I was just asking a logistics question....but just figured it out.
  • Rino's had pre-existing teams in both Div. 1 and Premier.
  • Coastal was awarded a "Golden Ticket" Div. 1 spot.
  • Coastal and Rino's merged.
  • Coastal's Premier Men's roster will be moved into the Premier spot.
It's the same old shell game, no big deal. I just don't get why the Coastal team isn't named Coastal / Rino's.
 

dezza

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I was just asking a logistics question....but just figured it out.
  • Rino's had pre-existing teams in both Div. 1 and Premier.
  • Coastal was awarded a "Golden Ticket" Div. 1 spot.
  • Coastal and Rino's merged.
  • Coastal's Premier Men's roster will be moved into the Premier spot.
It's the same old shell game, no big deal. I just don't get why the Coastal team isn't named Coastal / Rino's.

I don't get it either.
 

Canucks4Ever

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Soccer is back...at least for now. Hopefully being outdoors helps us get through the whole season unscathed! Next up, a look at one of the historically most competitive tables in the Lower Mainland, the push for promotion in VMSL Division 1.

Completely Baseless Predictions:

Completely Baseless SEASON PREVIEW - Premier


Disclaimer:

It has been a lot of fun doing these predictions and previews over the last few years. Some people have enjoyed them, others not so much. All in all, though, I think it has been worthwhile and helped drum up some interest in the local leagues. It even seems to have helped spur the FVSL and VMSL to at least try to get some sort of regular media output going and hopefully that continues this season (perhaps interested parties can post those articles here for enjoyment and discussion). With all this in mind, I think now is the time to wind up this little venture - but before doing so, let's take a look at the three top divisions in the lower mainland.

For those not familiar with my column, I am largely just pulling this stuff out of thin air. I try to find whatever information is readily available online, but, ultimately, I am just trying to generate some interest in local soccer in BC. If I have omitted or overlooked facts that you consider relevant to your team, it's not done intentionally...get over it...;)


After spending a month and a half playing "Cohort Cups" last fall, the VMSL finally resumes league competition this year. Following their years of being a closed shop at the top, the VMSL Board decided, in their infinite wisdom, to provide direct access into Division 1 for two "eligible" teams per season. To say it did not quite turn out the way they would have envisioned might be a bit of an understatement. Regardless, the net result is a schedule with two groups of 7, an "optional bye" week and, presumably, a race to the finish wherein teams will be playing their counterparts in the opposite pool at the business end of the season. The two group winners will being earning automatic promotion, while the two second place sides will playoff with the winner then further playing off against the third bottom team in Premier for a final spot at the big kid's table. At the bottom, the two last place teams head down, while second bottom may need to playoff against potential new entrants for next season in order to keep their spot. Will this lead to increased competition and the best teams earning their place in the top tier? Or will it leave teams lamenting an imbalance of strength between the groups and see a shock team that has no business going up book a spot in Premier?

POOL A
1. Columbus FC

Poor Columbus had not technically been mathematically relegated back in the spring of 2020. Did it look like it was headed that direction? Sure. That said, they had booked themselves an Imperial Cup semi-final place, so maybe they could have pulled off one of the all time Great Escapes. Alas, for the Italians, Covid robbed them of that chance. Not only that, but they were forced to wait an entire season before they could get a chance at redemption. Assuming they were able to keep the majority of their core in tact through the Covid hiatus, their experience and pedigree makes them the clear favourites to go back up. Their six-game Covid schedule last season had them playing in the Division 1 cohorts and they were dominant, with their only loss coming via an ineligible player technicality. Now, obviously, they did not get to sample the whole division, instead they played the weaker of the two Westside sides, newly promoted Serbia and a Faly team that had moved over from U21 and were playing in the Division 1 cohorts due to their merger with Shaheen and vacancies with teams sitting out due to Covid. So no, not exactly the top echelon of this level, but, still, the were easily the class of the group. As well, two of those sides are in their group for this season; games from which they will no doubt be expecting 12 points. Port Moody are a bit of a wild card and GN look to perhaps be back to their former level when they were challenging for promotion a few years ago. Overall, though, this has to be considered Columbus' to lose.

2. Port Moody SC
One of the teams granted direct entry in the VMSL Division 1 under the new Board initiative, Port Moody, like so many before them at this level, will be seeking an immediate promotion to the top flight. However, as others have learned in the past, the competition level in VMSL Division 1 is fierce and rare is the side that waltzes through to glory. Ayjal Tigers needed more that one season. North Delta needed a vacancy to get up after finishing third their inaugural season. The Shaheens and Campos of the world have come up after winning all there is to win in Division 2, only to be pegged back on their path to Prem. This time, though, the structure is different and, perhaps this two group set up, with a pathway to a third promotion spot, opens the door for a team like Port Moody. Not too much is known about this side. They are not the Port Moody Gunners team that won the FVSL circa 2019. Nor are they the PCSL Summer side that surface earlier this year. They have elements of the Division 1 group that played in the FVSL previously, but, presumably they have some other pieces, perhaps from the other two groups mentioned. They were admitted to the VMSL to help raise the level of competition, we shall see if they can live up to that billing.

3. GN Sporting
Rounding out what appears to be a rather defined "Top 3" on this half of the draw are the North Delta boys, GN Sporting. GN have flirted with promotion pushes in the past, but have always fizzled in the second half, particularly during the holiday season. With the home and away games within the groups being wrapped up by the first week of December, this new format might just play into the hands of the boys from South of the Fraser. GN were top of their cohort during the half dozen games in the fall last year. They followed that up by winning the Knights League Division 1 this summer. Both those feats were achieved against a slightly lower level of competition, but should not be completely dismissed. Teams certainly will not relish a Friday night trek out to Mackie and a good start might be enough to propel GN into the promotion conversation.

4. Norvan Sarajevo
At the other end of the table are four sides who, if this was the regular single table format, might well all figure to be in the bottom four and the relegation battle. As it is, only one of them will be going automatically down. Norvan Sarajevo are the neglected younger brother of Norvan's Prem side and they have consistently been in the bottom half in recent seasons. With no ability to get promoted, staying in the league is the only goal and you think they should probably be able to manage that. Their form during the brief Covid season was middling at best with a win and three draws. That is likely what you can expect for this campaign - a decent weekly effort, but probably lacking that bit of quality needed to be a threat at the top end of the table.

5. Westside FC United
Ahead of the Covid season, Westside folded the Sierra portion of their program into their main group and what was left turned into this "United" squad. The side looked to be a mix of veteran guys maybe not quite in top form, some youth and some guys getting a chance to move up from Division 2. The results were a bit shaky during the brief Covid season, though they did finish off with a solid win away to Serbia. They will have hoped to bolster their ranks in the time since and will look to assert that this group belongs at this level. They will certainly need to clean things up at the back after conceding 15 goal in just six games. Like Norvan and the others around them in this group, survival is the only goal for this team and one can envision them having to be able to persevere through some tough stretches of form in order to achieve that objective.

6. FC Serbia United
It has been a long wait for Serbia to play at this level. They missed out on promotion at the wire in 2019. Then they were in pole position to go up when Covid hit in 2020. While they were not mathematically assured of promotion, they had the best points per game in their group and, thus, were crowned champions and awarded the accompanying promotion. Of course, 2020/21 was cancelled altogether, but now, finally, they will get their chance. Scoring goals was never a problem for Serbia in their Div. 2 days and they will be hoping that they can still find a way to goal consistently at this higher level. On issue they might run into, however, is the fact they were a veteran group when they achieved promotion and this layoff certainly has not made them any younger. They, like all promoted sides, will likely have visions of glory. In this new format, the difference between a relegation battle and promotion battle might only be one or two wins. So perhaps they can compete at the end of the table where they want to be.

7. Vancouver Greencaps
Tough get a read on Greencaps. They were mired at the bottom of the league pre-covid but went on a nice little run to get out of trouble before the season was halted. Their Covid form was not great - a win and three draws same as Sarajevo, but they really struggled for goals, scoring just four times in six games. Of course, Greencaps rely heavily on Irish imports in town on tourist visas and that surely has been curtailed by Covid. Just what kind of lineup they will be able to field is a mystery. Perhaps they will be comfortably safe before the end and based on their form during the brief Covid season, they should be able to compete just fine with the others in the bottom half here. However, if Covid has thinned their ranks then that might be the difference that sees them the wrong side of the safety line.

POOL B
1. Westside FC "A"
There is no relegated Premier side in Pool B, with Shaheen having bought FASA's spot prior to the abbreviated Covid campaign. Of course it looked like Coastal, the FVSL powerhouse were set to step in as part of the VMSL's expansion, but then they pulled a fast one with Rino's and got themselves straight into Prem. That leaves Westside, who narrowly missed out on promotion when the 2020 season came to a close as the presumptive favourites on this side of the division. That said, where the "A" pool seemingly has two tiers, this "B" pool is much more even from top to bottom. Lots of teams will likely take points of each other over two legs and, as a result, the group champion might be decided based on who can perform the best down the stretch in the crossover games against the arguably weekend pool. As for promotion, it would appear that "Coastal", Lupi, and Rino's all will not be able to go up. That surely means Westside have to like their odds. It also means that fifth place could potentially be enough to get a team into a promotion playoff. Westside will be aiming higher, no doubt, and they got the chance to play in the Premier cohorts during the short Covid season last year. They held their own, going 3-3, which will likely give the confidence that they can hang with the big boys. The trick, of course, is getting their and that will surely be the focus for this side.

2. Rino's Fury
With the moving and shaking to get Coastal into Rino's former Premier spot, Fury are now, arguably, Rino's flagship team. Merger and naming rules look like they will prevent Fury from being eligible for promotion this season, but expect a strong campaign nonetheless. Fury have long been stalwarts of the Division 1 level, but with this new alignment, and the parity it looks to have brought to the B Pool, Rino's consistency at this level might just be their key to competing for a division title (or at least half of one?). They had a strong Covid campaign, perhaps somewhat surprisingly topped by newly promoted Metropolitan, and will expect to be very competitive this season with no clear favourite in the group.

3. Coquitlam Metro Ford Lupi
One of the teams that fully sat out the Covid season, it will be very interesting to see what Lupi have in store coming out of the layoff. Cast as a band of overlooked players who could not get into the closed shop that was their Premier side, Wolves, this group took the Division by storm after earning their way up from Div. 2. While they were not eligible for promotion due to the ceiling created by Wolves, they were right in amongst it at the top their first couple seasons. However, Wolves seemed to struggle a bit and underwent some management changes. This opened the door for some of Lupi's players. Additionally, the gloss of being the little underdog band of brothers seemed to wear off a bit after a few campaigns. In their last season Lupi regressed to the mean somewhat. They still one their fair share of matches, they just were not a dominant force at the top of the table. What they will look like coming out of Covid is anyone's guess. Are they still mostly the same group? Or will they have wholesale changes? Fair bet to stick them in the middle of the pack, but they could easily end up near the bottom if the core of their group is not returning.

4. Metropolitan FC
After being trapped in Division 2 for the better part of half a decade, Students smashed back up to Division 1 with a bang. They had their Division 2 crown well and truly locked up long before Covid suspended play in 2020. Cruelly, they have been forced to wait yet one more year before making their return. They demonstrated their exuberance during the brief Covid season, winning their cohort and there is not reason to think the shine will have come off just yet. Yes, this will be a bigger sample size and stronger competition in the Division 1 table at large, but, again, this is another team that could benefit from the new alignment. Newly promoted sides generally come out of the traps guns blazing and a strong start could propel Metro into the top half of the table. Given the amount of sides that cannot get promoted out of this group, there is a chance Students could find themselves with a chance to make it back to back, albeit delayed, promotions!

5. Coastal FC
So the deal is this. Rino's new that post break-up with Tigers that their Premier team, led by former Swiss international Blaise Nkufo, were likely to struggle at the top level, not dissimilar to the situation their very first season in Prem when they amassed a total of two points for the year and we're immediately relegated. A plan was hatched with Coastal, who wanted into the VMSL, but would only come over if they could play in Premier, and the Surrey based team applied for, and was awarded, one of the VMSL's direct entry expansion spots. From there, a "merger" was hatched and Coastal took over the Prem spot, with Blaise's group assuming the newly created Division 1 slot. However, the Board was rather miffed, shall we say, about this as direct entry to Premier was never supposed to be on the cards. The league granted the "merger" for the Premier spot, but would not change the name of the newly awarded Division 1 spot. As a result, Blaise's group will play as "Coastal", but still remain under the Rino's umbrella for all intents and purposes. As for their potential on the field this season, the step down was likely a good move. In their six matches as part of a Premier cohort last fall, they were 0-6 and well beaten weekly, including two losses to the Westside team with whom they now share this group. The kids are well drilled and can certainly pick up points if their opposition does not assert themselves. Gotta figure they will have enough to stay in the league.

6. Vancouver Strikers
Another group that sat out the Covid season and come in to this year as a bit of a wildcard. Strikers have been a lower mid-table side since earning their way up from Div. 2 and that sort of form might drag them into a relegation battle in a smaller group. At the same time, a few good results could see them spring up the table and they have shown in the past they are more than capable of beating anyone in this group on their day. Reports have trickled in of Strikers having a very up and down summer league and pre-season with wildly varying results. That might not be too far away from how their winter goes. Great one week when they have their guys and everyone is on. Struggling the next if things are off kilter. More good days than bad and they could find themselves in a promotion battle, especially given that nearly half the group cannot go up. More tough outings than not though and it could be a campaign spent looking over their shoulder at the trap door.

7. Shaheen FC FASA
After being unable to earn promotion back to Division 1 the old fashioned way, Shaheen found a work around and took over FASA's spot following their relegation. Even bringing in former Premier and National Golden Boot winner Milad Mehrabi was not enough to get them back up. Milad may be getting older, but he still has the ability to win Shaheen a game single handedly. Unfortunately for Shaheen, they just cannot rely on that every week, as they learned while trapped in Division 2. As Milad goes so will go Shaheen it would seem, and in the abbreviated Covid season, it did not go all that well. Despite seven goals in six games by Milad, Shaheen only managed a pair of wins against Division 2 side Bingers Army and were well beaten by Rino's and Metropolitan in their other four matches. Maybe Milad does enough to keep them up or maybe being back in Div. 1 has allowed for better recruitment. Otherwise it looks like it could be a short stay for Shaheen back at this level.
 

Bald and Beautiful

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Soccer is back...at least for now. Hopefully being outdoors helps us get through the whole season unscathed! Next up, a look at one of the historically most competitive tables in the Lower Mainland, the push for promotion in VMSL Division 1.

Completely Baseless Predictions:

Completely Baseless SEASON PREVIEW - Premier


Disclaimer:

It has been a lot of fun doing these predictions and previews over the last few years. Some people have enjoyed them, others not so much. All in all, though, I think it has been worthwhile and helped drum up some interest in the local leagues. It even seems to have helped spur the FVSL and VMSL to at least try to get some sort of regular media output going and hopefully that continues this season (perhaps interested parties can post those articles here for enjoyment and discussion). With all this in mind, I think now is the time to wind up this little venture - but before doing so, let's take a look at the three top divisions in the lower mainland.

For those not familiar with my column, I am largely just pulling this stuff out of thin air. I try to find whatever information is readily available online, but, ultimately, I am just trying to generate some interest in local soccer in BC. If I have omitted or overlooked facts that you consider relevant to your team, it's not done intentionally...get over it...;)


After spending a month and a half playing "Cohort Cups" last fall, the VMSL finally resumes league competition this year. Following their years of being a closed shop at the top, the VMSL Board decided, in their infinite wisdom, to provide direct access into Division 1 for two "eligible" teams per season. To say it did not quite turn out the way they would have envisioned might be a bit of an understatement. Regardless, the net result is a schedule with two groups of 7, an "optional bye" week and, presumably, a race to the finish wherein teams will be playing their counterparts in the opposite pool at the business end of the season. The two group winners will being earning automatic promotion, while the two second place sides will playoff with the winner then further playing off against the third bottom team in Premier for a final spot at the big kid's table. At the bottom, the two last place teams head down, while second bottom may need to playoff against potential new entrants for next season in order to keep their spot. Will this lead to increased competition and the best teams earning their place in the top tier? Or will it leave teams lamenting an imbalance of strength between the groups and see a shock team that has no business going up book a spot in Premier?

POOL A
1. Columbus FC

Poor Columbus had not technically been mathematically relegated back in the spring of 2020. Did it look like it was headed that direction? Sure. That said, they had booked themselves an Imperial Cup semi-final place, so maybe they could have pulled off one of the all time Great Escapes. Alas, for the Italians, Covid robbed them of that chance. Not only that, but they were forced to wait an entire season before they could get a chance at redemption. Assuming they were able to keep the majority of their core in tact through the Covid hiatus, their experience and pedigree makes them the clear favourites to go back up. Their six-game Covid schedule last season had them playing in the Division 1 cohorts and they were dominant, with their only loss coming via an ineligible player technicality. Now, obviously, they did not get to sample the whole division, instead they played the weaker of the two Westside sides, newly promoted Serbia and a Faly team that had moved over from U21 and were playing in the Division 1 cohorts due to their merger with Shaheen and vacancies with teams sitting out due to Covid. So no, not exactly the top echelon of this level, but, still, the were easily the class of the group. As well, two of those sides are in their group for this season; games from which they will no doubt be expecting 12 points. Port Moody are a bit of a wild card and GN look to perhaps be back to their former level when they were challenging for promotion a few years ago. Overall, though, this has to be considered Columbus' to lose.

2. Port Moody SC
One of the teams granted direct entry in the VMSL Division 1 under the new Board initiative, Port Moody, like so many before them at this level, will be seeking an immediate promotion to the top flight. However, as others have learned in the past, the competition level in VMSL Division 1 is fierce and rare is the side that waltzes through to glory. Ayjal Tigers needed more that one season. North Delta needed a vacancy to get up after finishing third their inaugural season. The Shaheens and Campos of the world have come up after winning all there is to win in Division 2, only to be pegged back on their path to Prem. This time, though, the structure is different and, perhaps this two group set up, with a pathway to a third promotion spot, opens the door for a team like Port Moody. Not too much is known about this side. They are not the Port Moody Gunners team that won the FVSL circa 2019. Nor are they the PCSL Summer side that surface earlier this year. They have elements of the Division 1 group that played in the FVSL previously, but, presumably they have some other pieces, perhaps from the other two groups mentioned. They were admitted to the VMSL to help raise the level of competition, we shall see if they can live up to that billing.

3. GN Sporting
Rounding out what appears to be a rather defined "Top 3" on this half of the draw are the North Delta boys, GN Sporting. GN have flirted with promotion pushes in the past, but have always fizzled in the second half, particularly during the holiday season. With the home and away games within the groups being wrapped up by the first week of December, this new format might just play into the hands of the boys from South of the Fraser. GN were top of their cohort during the half dozen games in the fall last year. They followed that up by winning the Knights League Division 1 this summer. Both those feats were achieved against a slightly lower level of competition, but should not be completely dismissed. Teams certainly will not relish a Friday night trek out to Mackie and a good start might be enough to propel GN into the promotion conversation.

4. Norvan Sarajevo
At the other end of the table are four sides who, if this was the regular single table format, might well all figure to be in the bottom four and the relegation battle. As it is, only one of them will be going automatically down. Norvan Sarajevo are the neglected younger brother of Norvan's Prem side and they have consistently been in the bottom half in recent seasons. With no ability to get promoted, staying in the league is the only goal and you think they should probably be able to manage that. Their form during the brief Covid season was middling at best with a win and three draws. That is likely what you can expect for this campaign - a decent weekly effort, but probably lacking that bit of quality needed to be a threat at the top end of the table.

5. Westside FC United
Ahead of the Covid season, Westside folded the Sierra portion of their program into their main group and what was left turned into this "United" squad. The side looked to be a mix of veteran guys maybe not quite in top form, some youth and some guys getting a chance to move up from Division 2. The results were a bit shaky during the brief Covid season, though they did finish off with a solid win away to Serbia. They will have hoped to bolster their ranks in the time since and will look to assert that this group belongs at this level. They will certainly need to clean things up at the back after conceding 15 goal in just six games. Like Norvan and the others around them in this group, survival is the only goal for this team and one can envision them having to be able to persevere through some tough stretches of form in order to achieve that objective.

6. FC Serbia United
It has been a long wait for Serbia to play at this level. They missed out on promotion at the wire in 2019. Then they were in pole position to go up when Covid hit in 2020. While they were not mathematically assured of promotion, they had the best points per game in their group and, thus, were crowned champions and awarded the accompanying promotion. Of course, 2020/21 was cancelled altogether, but now, finally, they will get their chance. Scoring goals was never a problem for Serbia in their Div. 2 days and they will be hoping that they can still find a way to goal consistently at this higher level. On issue they might run into, however, is the fact they were a veteran group when they achieved promotion and this layoff certainly has not made them any younger. They, like all promoted sides, will likely have visions of glory. In this new format, the difference between a relegation battle and promotion battle might only be one or two wins. So perhaps they can compete at the end of the table where they want to be.

7. Vancouver Greencaps
Tough get a read on Greencaps. They were mired at the bottom of the league pre-covid but went on a nice little run to get out of trouble before the season was halted. Their Covid form was not great - a win and three draws same as Sarajevo, but they really struggled for goals, scoring just four times in six games. Of course, Greencaps rely heavily on Irish imports in town on tourist visas and that surely has been curtailed by Covid. Just what kind of lineup they will be able to field is a mystery. Perhaps they will be comfortably safe before the end and based on their form during the brief Covid season, they should be able to compete just fine with the others in the bottom half here. However, if Covid has thinned their ranks then that might be the difference that sees them the wrong side of the safety line.

POOL B
1. Westside FC "A"
There is no relegated Premier side in Pool B, with Shaheen having bought FASA's spot prior to the abbreviated Covid campaign. Of course it looked like Coastal, the FVSL powerhouse were set to step in as part of the VMSL's expansion, but then they pulled a fast one with Rino's and got themselves straight into Prem. That leaves Westside, who narrowly missed out on promotion when the 2020 season came to a close as the presumptive favourites on this side of the division. That said, where the "A" pool seemingly has two tiers, this "B" pool is much more even from top to bottom. Lots of teams will likely take points of each other over two legs and, as a result, the group champion might be decided based on who can perform the best down the stretch in the crossover games against the arguably weekend pool. As for promotion, it would appear that "Coastal", Lupi, and Rino's all will not be able to go up. That surely means Westside have to like their odds. It also means that fifth place could potentially be enough to get a team into a promotion playoff. Westside will be aiming higher, no doubt, and they got the chance to play in the Premier cohorts during the short Covid season last year. They held their own, going 3-3, which will likely give the confidence that they can hang with the big boys. The trick, of course, is getting their and that will surely be the focus for this side.

2. Rino's Fury
With the moving and shaking to get Coastal into Rino's former Premier spot, Fury are now, arguably, Rino's flagship team. Merger and naming rules look like they will prevent Fury from being eligible for promotion this season, but expect a strong campaign nonetheless. Fury have long been stalwarts of the Division 1 level, but with this new alignment, and the parity it looks to have brought to the B Pool, Rino's consistency at this level might just be their key to competing for a division title (or at least half of one?). They had a strong Covid campaign, perhaps somewhat surprisingly topped by newly promoted Metropolitan, and will expect to be very competitive this season with no clear favourite in the group.

3. Coquitlam Metro Ford Lupi
One of the teams that fully sat out the Covid season, it will be very interesting to see what Lupi have in store coming out of the layoff. Cast as a band of overlooked players who could not get into the closed shop that was their Premier side, Wolves, this group took the Division by storm after earning their way up from Div. 2. While they were not eligible for promotion due to the ceiling created by Wolves, they were right in amongst it at the top their first couple seasons. However, Wolves seemed to struggle a bit and underwent some management changes. This opened the door for some of Lupi's players. Additionally, the gloss of being the little underdog band of brothers seemed to wear off a bit after a few campaigns. In their last season Lupi regressed to the mean somewhat. They still one their fair share of matches, they just were not a dominant force at the top of the table. What they will look like coming out of Covid is anyone's guess. Are they still mostly the same group? Or will they have wholesale changes? Fair bet to stick them in the middle of the pack, but they could easily end up near the bottom if the core of their group is not returning.

4. Metropolitan FC
After being trapped in Division 2 for the better part of half a decade, Students smashed back up to Division 1 with a bang. They had their Division 2 crown well and truly locked up long before Covid suspended play in 2020. Cruelly, they have been forced to wait yet one more year before making their return. They demonstrated their exuberance during the brief Covid season, winning their cohort and there is not reason to think the shine will have come off just yet. Yes, this will be a bigger sample size and stronger competition in the Division 1 table at large, but, again, this is another team that could benefit from the new alignment. Newly promoted sides generally come out of the traps guns blazing and a strong start could propel Metro into the top half of the table. Given the amount of sides that cannot get promoted out of this group, there is a chance Students could find themselves with a chance to make it back to back, albeit delayed, promotions!

5. Coastal FC
So the deal is this. Rino's new that post break-up with Tigers that their Premier team, led by former Swiss international Blaise Nkufo, were likely to struggle at the top level, not dissimilar to the situation their very first season in Prem when they amassed a total of two points for the year and we're immediately relegated. A plan was hatched with Coastal, who wanted into the VMSL, but would only come over if they could play in Premier, and the Surrey based team applied for, and was awarded, one of the VMSL's direct entry expansion spots. From there, a "merger" was hatched and Coastal took over the Prem spot, with Blaise's group assuming the newly created Division 1 slot. However, the Board was rather miffed, shall we say, about this as direct entry to Premier was never supposed to be on the cards. The league granted the "merger" for the Premier spot, but would not change the name of the newly awarded Division 1 spot. As a result, Blaise's group will play as "Coastal", but still remain under the Rino's umbrella for all intents and purposes. As for their potential on the field this season, the step down was likely a good move. In their six matches as part of a Premier cohort last fall, they were 0-6 and well beaten weekly, including two losses to the Westside team with whom they now share this group. The kids are well drilled and can certainly pick up points if their opposition does not assert themselves. Gotta figure they will have enough to stay in the league.

6. Vancouver Strikers
Another group that sat out the Covid season and come in to this year as a bit of a wildcard. Strikers have been a lower mid-table side since earning their way up from Div. 2 and that sort of form might drag them into a relegation battle in a smaller group. At the same time, a few good results could see them spring up the table and they have shown in the past they are more than capable of beating anyone in this group on their day. Reports have trickled in of Strikers having a very up and down summer league and pre-season with wildly varying results. That might not be too far away from how their winter goes. Great one week when they have their guys and everyone is on. Struggling the next if things are off kilter. More good days than bad and they could find themselves in a promotion battle, especially given that nearly half the group cannot go up. More tough outings than not though and it could be a campaign spent looking over their shoulder at the trap door.

7. Shaheen FC FASA
After being unable to earn promotion back to Division 1 the old fashioned way, Shaheen found a work around and took over FASA's spot following their relegation. Even bringing in former Premier and National Golden Boot winner Milad Mehrabi was not enough to get them back up. Milad may be getting older, but he still has the ability to win Shaheen a game single handedly. Unfortunately for Shaheen, they just cannot rely on that every week, as they learned while trapped in Division 2. As Milad goes so will go Shaheen it would seem, and in the abbreviated Covid season, it did not go all that well. Despite seven goals in six games by Milad, Shaheen only managed a pair of wins against Division 2 side Bingers Army and were well beaten by Rino's and Metropolitan in their other four matches. Maybe Milad does enough to keep them up or maybe being back in Div. 1 has allowed for better recruitment. Otherwise it looks like it could be a short stay for Shaheen back at this level.
Forgive me for my ignorance but is it not Westside Strikers?
 

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