Brett Levis was the first Saskatchewan born and raised player to sign an MLS deal and now he’s making history in the Canadian Premier League.
Levis, a 26-year-old defender/midfielder, has officially signed a contract to join Valour FC. The Saskatoon native will become the first player from his home province to suit up in the CPL.
"That’s sort of just the cherry on top. I hope that helps kids from the Prairies, especially from Saskatoon where I’m from," Levis said in a conference call with the local media.
"Growing up, we tend to be overlooked quite a bit. So, I’m just hoping it opens more doors, whether it’s CPL or MLS. But again, that’s just the cherry on top. I’m just excited to play in a Canadian league, a growing league, a league that I have a lot of faith in. I’m excited to get going."
Levis adds some valuable experience to Winnipeg’s professional soccer team’s lineup. After playing for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies from 2011-14, Levis headed out west and signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 club. In 2015, he signed a deal with the senior squad and Levis went on to score eight goals in 23 appearances in four seasons at the MLS level.
"I could probably go on forever with that," said Levis on what he learned during his time with the Whitecaps. "I learned a lot of different things. Whether it’s the dynamic amongst the team, the atmosphere of being at this level of play, again, I could probably go on forever. I really enjoyed my time in Vancouver. I was here for about six years. I loved every minute of it, but I’m excited for this new chapter. I’m excited to come to the city of Winnipeg who I know already has a really big and good fan base."
Things weren’t easy in Vancouver last year as the Whitecaps finished 8-10-16 to give them the worst record in the Western Conference. Changes, of course, needed to be made, but unfortunately for Levis, one of those changes was him being released at the end of the season.
"It’s part of the sport. At the end of the day, there was a coaching change and we didn’t have a great year. I’ve been there for five years now so it was time for me to move on as well," he said. "At the end of the day, I’m 26-years-old and I need to get games and I need to play. I think that I’m now going to be in an atmosphere where I will get that."
With Levis needing a new team, a familiar face in Rob Gale reached out. Levis credited the Valour coach as the main reason why he chose to come to Winnipeg. They got to know each other when Gale coached for Canada Soccer and would visit national training centres in various provinces.
"We go quite a ways back. He was a part of the National Training Centre when we used to travel to Alberta a couple times a month. He’s obviously on the Winnipeg side of things, but he always vouched for the Saskatchewan players," said Levis, who was named to the 40-man provisional roster for Canada during the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"We always had a very small pool of players that would go to Alberta. I got to know him quite a bit there and we spoke on the phone a number of times. I’m really excited about what he has planned and his style of play and whatnot."
The signing also means Levis will be rejoined with former Whitecaps teammate Fraser Aird. Valour announced they had signed Aird, who played 18 games for Vancouver while on loan in 2016, last week. Aird, a 24-year-old from Toronto, spent the rest of his eight-year professional career in Scotland.
Levis, as well as Aird, are obviously crucial signings as Valour has lost their top three players from last season to other CPL clubs: Louis Beland-Goyette (HFX Wanderers FC), Michael Petrasso (York9 FC) and Marco Bustos (Pacific FC). Levis was asked if it’s concerning to see Valour’s key players move on to new teams after only one season.
"To be honest, I didn’t look into that too much. It is what it is. Players move on. Coming from playing with the Whitecaps and being in that MLS atmosphere, you see players move on all the time... it’s just part of the sport," he said.
"I try not to look into that too much. I’m going to do everything in my ability to be at my best and that’s the only thing I can control and just be fully bought into this system and what Rob has planned. That’s my goal."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Updated on Friday, January 31, 2020 at 6:28 AM CST: Adds photo
7:25 AM: Removes text