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Youth Boys Apr 01, 2011

VCCL expands to Northern Virginia with capture of eight top clubs

This is no April Fool’s Day joke. Potomac Soccer Wire has been tracking rumors and reports all week, and now it’s official: top youth travel league Virginia Club Champions League (“VCCL”) is heading north, as eight major Northern Virginia youth clubs join to form a new division entitled “VCCL North.”

Annandale, Arlington, Braddock Road, Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association (FASA), Great Falls, Loudoun, Prince William Soccer, Inc. (PWSI), and Southwestern Youth Association (SYA) have all committed to joining the VCCL this fall. Originally based in central and southern Virginia, the league currently consists of eight elite clubs: Beach FC, FC Richmond, Richmond Strikers, Richmond Kickers, Roanoke Star, SOCA, Virginia Legacy and Virginia Rush.

“As president of VCCL it is very gratifying that the expansion into Northern Virginia has come to fruition. It is rewarding to those of us in the league who have worked to this end for a number of years. We believe that this growth is for the good of our clubs and especially our players as it will present new challenges and provide better competition for all,” said VCCL President Dave Amsler in a prepared statement.

Many clubs in northern Virginia have contemplated the VCCL concept in the past, and have explored the possibilities of joining the league in the last several months. The aforementioned eight Northern Virginia clubs will now join with VCCL’s incumbents to form a statewide league based on the club model, and will begin play in the fall 2011 soccer season.

Each club will enter their top teams from the rising U11-U14 age groups, and every year they will add the new U11 group to the fold. VCCL North has also decided to provide a U9 and U10 division, but no scores or standings will be collected from those age groups.

Though there have been hints that these eight clubs might seek a move to VCCL, today’s news nonetheless represents something of a bombshell for the other leagues they presently call home.

“We had heard that this had been in the works for a while,” said Washington Area Girls Soccer League (WAGS) president Kathie Diapoulis in a phone conversation with Potomac Soccer Wire on Friday. “We had reached out to find out exactly what was going on, what their concerns were, what they weren’t happy with, if there was any way we could find a meeting ground.

“We were told by all of the individuals we spoke to — mind you, we were not privy to all the people that were there — and we were told, ‘oh no, it’s just for the boys, it’s not for the girls.’”

The VCCL model is designed to bring added stability to the member clubs, as the league limits player movement. Players must commit to their team and club for one year, and cannot jump to another VCCL club mid-season. The league uses block scheduling for game days, as all of the top teams from the club will travel to the same opponent on the same day. This format seeks to create a club-centric environment which benefits players, parents and coaches.

The VCCL does not promote or relegate teams. This is designed to allow teams to develop players without the need to continually win games or stay in the top divisions. VCCL says that it provides the flexibility to put teams against an appropriate level of competition, whether higher or lower.

The VCCL was the first league in VYSA to use a club pass system that allows any age-appropriate player in a club to guest-play with a team from the same club in VCCL league games. VCCL also championed the development of the Provisional Roster, which allows players on other club rosters to play for a team in league play only without officially transferring to that team.

While VCCL clubs and teams do not generally receive points from league play, a club champion is determined at the end of each season based on standings in each of the boys and girls age groups. The winning club retains the traveling trophy until the end of the next season.

“We are proud to become charter members of this new division of VCCL,” said Grant Smith, Boys Director of Coaching, Arlington Soccer Association. “It will bring to Northern Virginia a much-needed player-centered club development model of league play. We are excited to be a part of this evolution in youth soccer, and the members of our club will reap the benefits of the VCCL structure and its philosophies.”

Diapoulis expressed doubt about the depth and diversity of quality competition in the new league compared to established powers like WAGS, though she noted that smaller, in-state leagues face fewer logistical restrictions than those, like hers, which incorporate large numbers of teams across multiple states. VCCL’s Virginia-centric approach seems likely to streamline scheduling and registration issues, even as it reduces access to the diverse pool of competition in the greater Washington, D.C. region.

VCCL was formed in 1997 for boys teams U-11 through U-18/19. In June 2000 girls teams were added with play beginning in the Fall 2000 season. Beginning with the Fall 2005 season, VCCL adopted eight-a-side play for U-11 teams beginning Fall 2005, and eight-a-side play for U-12 teams beginning Fall 2007.

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