WINNIPEG'S newest soccer team will take to the turf this weekend as the WSA Winnipeg side will kick off its 2011 season schedule and make its debut in the Premier Development League (PDL).
WSA Winnipeg will host finalist Thunder Bay Chill in its home-opening series in the PDL, a development loop for players aged 23 and under that is part of the United Soccer Leagues family. Games are set for 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Winnipeg Outdoor Soccer Complex (Wilkes Avenue and Waverley Street). Team officials noted that inclement weather could result in games being moved indoors to the Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex at the University of Manitoba.
"We are so excited to bring this level of soccer to Winnipeg," said Eduardo Badescu, the WSA Winnipeg head coach and president. "The MLS (Major League of Soccer) looks at these players and when they finish university, they may take them. In the MLS, 75 per cent of the players come from the PDL."
The WSA Winnipeg team plays in the seven-team Heartland Division in the PDL's 16-team Central Conference. There are 64 PDL teams in four conferences including teams from Canada and the United States. Players are not paid as it is considered a league to develop amateur players at the university or college level who have aspirations to play professionally. Rosters include up to 26 players and a maximum of eight players can be over 23 years of age.
Winnipeg is already home to the Winnipeg Alliance FC of the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League (CMISL). The two programs seem ready to co-exist as three Alliance players -- Ivan Garcia, Jordan Goetting and Kenny Sacramento -- are also on WSA Winnipeg.
When there's great soccer in town, Goetting said he wants to play it.
"This is the elite of outdoor soccer in the city right now and the Alliance are the elite of indoor soccer. I'm hoping I can play both for as long as possible," said Goetting, 34, who formerly played in the PDL with Thunder Bay and Springfield Demize.
"This is such an exciting opportunity to be able to play at this level and not have to leave my son (three-year-old Jared). You're playing at an elite level, practising every day, and it's a short season, only a 16-game season."
Alliance president and owner said Tony Pesce said it's possible to co-exist since the two teams offer different soccer products with the indoor game and outdoor game.
"They don't cross each other at all and what we both can do for each other is having teams playing at a different level of soccer," Pesce said.
"We can increase the interest in soccer at both levels and I think that's great. Maybe down the road, we'll be able to work a little closer together."