VMSL League / Divisional set-up

FC Red Star

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Last season (2018/19) standings show that the two last placed teams in Premier, Division 1, and Division 2 were really not competitive in those leagues. It seems to me that VMSL should consider to change the number of teams in those leagues not only because of this but to fix some other issues (which can be elaborated later on if necessary).

Current VMSL set-up (last season 2018/19 and most likely next 2019/20)

Premier - 12 teams
Division 1 – 12 teams
Division 2 – 24 teams (2 pools with 12 teams in each pool)
Division 3 – 33 teams (3 pools with 10-12 teams in each pool)
Total 81 teams

In my opinion better VMSL set-up (season 2020/21) would be:

Premier - 10 teams
Division 1 – 10 teams
Division 2 – 20 teams (2 pools with 10 teams in each pool)
Division 3 – 40 teams (4 pools with 10 teams in each pool)
Total 80* teams

*Any new team (or if there are more than 80 teams) could be added to one of Division 3 pools so some Division 3 pools could have more than 10 teams (no relegation from Division 3 so the number of teams could be added whenever necessary).

Advantages of this new set-up would be:
  1. Better quality concentrated (less teams in each division)
  2. More competitiveness during the season (attitude “do not care, can’t go up, can’t be relegated” would most likely be gone).
Each league would have 18 regular season games.

After 18 regular season games 4 top teams (in this case Premier league) would continue playing additional 3 games (against each other; points from the regular 18 season games would carry over) – total played 21 games in a season (one less than current 22 games). Those 4 teams would automatically qualify for Imperial Cup (16 teams max in Imperial Cup) and further to Provincial Cup.

After 18 regular season games teams placed 5 – 8 would continue playing additional 3 games against each other. Those 4 teams would automatically qualify for Imperial Cup and two best placed teams in this group would automatically qualify for Provincial Cup.

Two last placed teams after 18 regular season games would finish league competition at that point and be relegated to Division 1. Another option would be that only team #10 is directly relegated to Div 1 while team #9 could play 2 games against Division 1 #2 team (at the end of season) to determine which of those two would be in Premier/Div 1.

The same system (18 regular season games + 3 “play-off like” games would work also in Division 1. Top 4 teams after 18 season games would play against each other 3 additional round; the best team after 21 games would be promoted while the 2nd could be either also promoted or play 2 games against Team #9 from Premier.
Teams #9 and #10 in Division 1 (after 18 games) would be automatically relegated to Division 2 to make room for two Champions (Pool A and Pool B) from Division 2.

Six best teams from Division 1 would qualify to Imperial Cup.

Division 2 (with two pools) could have a mini 3-game league between A1, A2, B1, and B2 to determine two teams moving up to Division 1 (or both pools could have the same system as Premier and Division 1 with 4 best teams in each pool would continue 3 additional rounds to determine the best in Pool A and Pool B that would be promoted). Mixing up two pools at the end of season would give a chance two teams from the same pool to advance to Division 1; sometimes one pool is significantly better than the other.

Division 2 would be the same when it comes to relegation (i.e. last two placed teams after 18 league games in Division 2 would automatically be relegated to Division 3).

Division 3 (with 4 pools) promotion system would have to be done differently to account for eventual difference in quality between those 4 pools so after 18 regular season games A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, and D2 should play play-off to determine which 2 teams would be promoted to Division 2.

Play-off format in Division 3:
A1 – B2
B1 – C2
C1 – D2
D1 – A2

Winner of A1/B2 vs Winner of C1/D2
Winner of B1/C2 vs Winner of D1/A2

Winners of those semi-final games would be promoted to Division 2. This play-off would give a chance to two teams from the same pool to advance to Division 2 (it could happened that teams in one pool are significantly better than teams in other pools; it is hard to balance any pools before the season; especially Division 3 pools).

Does this make any sense?
 

Canucks4Ever

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A bit of a deep dive into this issue here for those interested in a longer read...

Support for a change in divisional structure is slowly gaining momentum among teams in the VMSL and bubbling under the surface. However, that being said, the VMSL board is not anywhere close to considering changes and certainly not changes as sweeping and drastic as you have proposed. Change in the VMSL comes slowly, if at all. The last major changes were switching from 3 pools in Div. 2 to two pools and at the same time going from 2 pools in Div. 3 to three pools. That was roughly at the end of the 2011/12 season. Before that the big change was consolidating Div. 1 into a single pool and that predated the lower division restructuring by a few years. In both cases, once the changes were approved, the league played out one final season with the current alignment and promoted/relegated the appropriate number of teams required to realign the divisions. So the idea of implementing anything for this fall is very unlikely; as you have noted 2020/21 would be the potential date for any realignment.

The next interesting point is that the most noise about realigning divisions almost ALWAYS seems to come from teams in Division 2. There is no question that it is difficult to earn promotion from Div. 2. You MUST win your pool and there are no second chances. While the new rules around randomly drawing the groups eliminates some of the ability to "rig" a pool, the fact remains that, given the transient nature of teams at this level, sides can improve or diminish unpredictably from year to year. Metropolitan and 13th Legion are great examples of teams who have recently been very good, or possibly even the best teams in their respective pools for more than one season, and remain trapped in Div. 2. To my earlier point about change coming slowly, this may be the best place to start. There is likely enough support to try and change the promotion rules from Division 2. Perhaps some type of playoff, as you have suggested, or relegating three teams from Division 1 may be a possibility.

The "nothing to play for" scenario that you have indicated really only crops up in Division 1. In Premier there are 7 highly coveted Provincial Cup spots to keep teams interested right up to the final weeks and if you are not fighting to be in the top seven you are likely needing to stay out of the bottom two in a 12 team league. Similarly in Div. 2 there are Provincial places to fight for and trying to avoid being in the bottom two as well. As the cup spots are split across two groups, perhaps a few lower mid-table sides are safe from relegation and out of the Provincials hunt sooner than in Premier, but the fight for almost all teams certainly carries into the final stretch. Look no further than the final standings this year to see that in both Div. 2 groups the bottom handful of teams were all needing to pick up points to ensure they avoided the relegation playoff right up to the final weeks of play.

A potential solution to the often banal nature to the end of the Div. 1 campaign might be to make the second promotion spot to Premier decided by playoff. So the top team goes up automatically but then teams 2-5 playoff for the other promotion spot. There is likely room in the schedule given that there are no Provincials for Div. 1 teams and very rarely does one of these teams make a deep Imperial Cup run. This, combined with potentially relegating three teams instead of two, would likely keep Div. 1 much more interesting all season.

Finally, I do see this past season as something of an anomaly in terms of teams being grossly under-competitive at certain levels. There have been several off field developments in terms of team management and ownership restructuring throughout the VMSL that I would say created this. Starting at the top, Campo were of course an embarrassment in Premier, but we have seen this before. Rino's Tigers suffered a similar fate in their first foray into the top flight and have now regrouped and are a top side who just played for the Provincial title. In both of those relegation, the problem came because the team that had got to that level largely disbanded leaving a void that was filled by players not at that level. This will happen occasionally and is, for the most part, unpreventable. This looks like it could well be on the cards again for next season as it has long been rumoured that Guildford will not return as their core group has disbanded due to a variety of life circumstances. That spot is, allegedly, for "sale" (last quote I heard had the asking price down to $6000) so depending on how that spot gets filled, there could be another team in Premier who are completely outclassed this season.

The other teams that were relegated from the top two divisions were Richmond, Bingers and Romania. All three sides have been stable teams for the last decade or so and simply ran out of new players to replace aging cores. All three fought as valiantly as they could, but were simply victims of natural selection, as it should be. The teams being promoted from Divisions 1 and 2 respectively, Columbus, White Eagles, Strikers and Sierra all face uphill battles, but should be up for the challenge and will, hopefully, push the other teams in their leagues to survive.

The other issue that can cause a team to be well out of their depth is "mergers." Inter/EDC's Division 1 group was an afterthought for that club and were nearly relegated. I would tip them to struggle again in Div. 1 next season. Is there a Div. 2 side that is likely better than them and could be playing in Div. 1 instead? Probably. However, these are situations that are, again, hard to account for and occur outside of the "natural selection" process in amateur soccer. Same thing with GN North Delta in Div. 2. Likely there was a Div. 3 side who could have given a better account of themselves, but there is simply no mechanism for addressing this other than to let them have their season of mediocrity and then relegation.

Overall, the point I am trying to make is that while there is always room for improvement, but I am not sure a complete overhaul is needed at this time. Again, it is usually the team at the lower levels looking up and insisting that the mountain to impossible to climb and thing have to be changed. However, when some of these teams do reach the upper levels, they become oddly quiet about the need for restructuring. Finding a way to make the Div. 1 schedule more compelling as well as potentially tweaking the Div. 2 promotion situation would be the two things that I see as items to address at this time.
 
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Canucks4Ever

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For those without the time/interest in reading a longer discussion on this topic I will put this info in a separate post:

I have heard rumours that the VMSL is strongly considering adding a Division 4 for the 2019/20 season in an effort to make Division 3 more competitive. The bottom teams in Div. 3 have expressed some interest in this and there are additional teams seeking places in the VMSL that could fill out the two divisions. New entrants to the VMSL would have the option (space permitting) to join in either Division 3 or 4.

Presumably this would be a single table Division 4 with 8-12 teams while Division 3 would remain in its current three pool format with 10-12 teams per group.
 

FC Red Star

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For those without the time/interest in reading a longer discussion on this topic I will put this info in a separate post:

I have heard rumours that the VMSL is strongly considering adding a Division 4 for the 2019/20 season in an effort to make Division 3 more competitive. The bottom teams in Div. 3 have expressed some interest in this and there are additional teams seeking places in the VMSL that could fill out the two divisions. New entrants to the VMSL would have the option (space permitting) to join in either Division 3 or 4.

Presumably this would be a single table Division 4 with 8-12 teams while Division 3 would remain in its current three pool format with 10-12 teams per group.
So, correct me if I am wrong. VMSL Board will try to make Division 3 more competitive but not Premier, Division 1, and Division 2!? Does not make any sense whatsoever.
If the goal is to make every division more competitive (which I recommended with my overhaul idea) then it has to start from the top, not from the bottom. Certainly, you could create Division 4 (two pools with 10 teams) and have Division 3 also with 2 pools with 10 teams in each pool) to have better competition at the bottom of Division 3 but that change (adding Division 4) should be done at the same time as the overhaul for all other divisions.

Ten teams per division brings more competitiveness and higher quality in each division. Limit the number of players one team can register during the season and naturally you will have a situation where any player who is not able to play Premier would most likely move to Division 1 (and so on).

With reduced number of teams in each division there is more likely less chance to deal with forfeited games during the season as well as meaningless games.

This system with ten teams where two teams (or one) are relegated after 18 games would probably see all teams fighting throughout the whole regular season.

Instead of having games at the end of season where top teams may play teams who were already relegated or where the standings may have already been decided (but there is still 3 or 4 more weeks to play), we would have 4 teams grouped based on the standings (1-4 and 5-8) after 18 regular season games and those teams would then continue playing 3 additional games between themselves (of course, points from 18 regular season games would carry over to the new mini league).
That would probably give a chance to the second or even to the third and fourth placed team to try to win the league (9 points available from those 3 additional games could go a long way).
What is better than 4 top teams playing each other at the end of season? Those 3 weeks would be probably the most exciting weeks in Premier (and any other division).

The group made of teams placed 5-8 during regular season (18 games) would have incentive playing for a spot at Imperial, League Cup and/or Provincial Cup.

The season (under new system) would have one game less (21 vs 22) which would create one extra week to play games that were not played due to bad weather (or any other reason). The system for abandoned games would also have to be completely revamped (easy to do).

Imperial Cup should be limited to 16 teams maximum. For example, Imperial Cup would have all 10 Premier league teams plus 6 teams from Division 1.

Due to number of teams in Division 2 and Division 3 (60 teams) Division 2 Cup could be limited to 32 teams (20 teams from Division 2 plus 3 best placed team in each of 4 pools in Division 3). Again, all teams have incentive to play hard all season to win a spot at the Cup competition. Another idea would be to split Division 2 and Division 3 cup into two (and limit both to 16 teams).

League Cup games could eventually be scheduled to "extend" the season (so should be played after regular season) which would be another incentive for teams to play hard during the season to secure those spots that extend their playing time.

It is actually very easy to make those changes. This coming season 2 last placed teams from Premier are automatically relegated to Division 1 while Premier #7 and #8 could have a play-off with Division 1 #1 and #2 for two remaining spots in Premier. The same could be planned all the way down to eventually newly added Division 4.

This system would also free up a calendar (less league games. less cup games, etc.) so there would be more time to deal with abandoned games and more time for Provincial Cup which should be better advertised.
 

FC Red Star

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One correction:
"It is actually very easy to make those changes. This coming season 2 last placed teams from Premier (#11 and #12) are automatically relegated to Division 1 while Premier #9 and #10 could have a play-off with Division 1 #1 and #2 for two remaining spots in Premier. The same could be planned all the way down to eventually newly added Division 4."
 

dezza

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Provincial Cup scheduling is determined by BC Soccer. If VMSL played a shorter season, that would probably be a disadvantage to most VMSL teams (those who don't make the VMSL Cup finals) who would be idle for even more weeks leading up to Provincials.

Also the idea of "qualifying" for the league cups reeks of North American style playoffs. No thanks.
 
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FC Red Star

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Provincial Cup scheduling is determined by BC Soccer. If VMSL played a shorter season, that would probably be a disadvantage to most VMSL teams (those who don't make the VMSL Cup finals) who would be idle for even more weeks leading up to Provincials.

Also the idea of "qualifying" for the league cups reeks of North American style playoffs. No thanks.
Yes, Provincial Cup's scheduling is done by BC Soccer but start of the Provincial Cup competition should be well known in advance. So, schedule then League Cups during the season and schedule/play those 3 additional games (in groups of 4) right before Provincial Cup starts and VMSL teams will be 100% ready for Provincial Cup. It just takes a little bit of planning.
 
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Canucks4Ever

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Evidently @FC Red Star did not attend the VMSL AGM as I am to understand that there was no discussion of Divisional realignment or competitiveness issues of any kind. The only changes to Open division structure of relevance are the potential creation of a Div. 4 (pending team registrations) and there will now be unlimited subs at half time in Division 2.

I think you are over estimating the desire for change throughout the membership; or at least change as radical as you have outlined. Personally, I agree with @dezza re his distaste for anything resembling North American style playoffs and a year end Cup competition plus the in-table four team playoffs you propose are just that IMO. Again, rather than a wholesale re-engineering of the league, I think small tweaks in Division 1 and Division 2 are what the league should look at in future seasons.

Switching gears to OFF-SEASON RUMOURS I am told Guildford have found a buyer for their Premier spot. I am to understand that the CCB LFC merger it set to come to an end with Steve Millar taking back his Langley FC portion of the spot which he had left in the care of Ted Hans. That leaves Ted and CCB needing a top flight spot, making them the perfect match for Guildford. Presumably there will need to be some fancy admin work given that "CCB LFC" are the Provincial Champions and set to head to Newfoundland for Nationals in October. All this being said, I did speak with another source at Guildford this weekend who said that the spot was very much on the market and that they have spoken to Ted and CCB but that nothing was firm just yet. So stay tuned on that front, but what seems clear is that Guildford, as they were, will not be back in Premier next fall.
 

FC Red Star

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“…that there was no discussion of Divisional realignment or competitiveness issues of any kind.”

There was no discussion because no one made an official recommendation for any kind of change. I did not contact VMSL with my idea; I posted it only here to see a reaction and if anyone would be interested in changes.

I do think that there is an issue with competitiveness in almost every division and that divisions with 10 instead of 12 teams would fix it.

To be clear, I did not recommend a classic play-off and/or elimination system of any kind.
I recommended that after a “regular” season (18 games) the teams form groups of 4 (based on standings) and that then they play ADDITIONAL 3 games within their group while points from “regular” season would count.

Imagine that 4 best placed teams in Premier play against each other at the end of season where 9 points are on the line. All 4 teams would most likely have a shot at the title.
Or, best placed teams in Division 1 battling out at the end of the season for 1 spot (or 2 spots) that is promoted to Premier.

In regards to off-season rumours – it never made any sense to me that the teams are allowed to merge/unmerge whenever the team “owner” (a person who owns the right to the divisional spot) wants.

In a scenario that you outlined, does it really make any sense that Guildford may not be able to field the team (so, in reality, they should forfeit) but they are going to “merge” (probably temporary) with CCB who may “unmerge” with Langley because Langley's owner decided to take the right to the Premier spot back from CCB!?

So, if I understand all this correctly, CCB was using Langley’s spot at Premier and next season they may be using Guildford’s spot!? What will happen if a year from now Guildford's owner wants his spot back?

Wasn’t it in CCB’s interest to register a team in Division 3 and move up until that team would reach Premier? Most other teams are going that route and that would be the only fair route.
 
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