The Calgary Minor Soccer Association has made some major upgrades to its Calgary West Soccer Centre.
Gone are the boards and carpets typically used for indoor soccer.
After a $2 million upgrade, the centre now boasts a full-sized soccer pitch with accredited FIFA Quality Pro football turf.
“By achieving this status, the Calgary West Soccer Center is now certified for international play, which then presents us an opportunity to work with Canada soccer to bring national teams to the venue,” said CMSA executive director Carlo Bruneau.
The association is looking towards a future where its facility is possibly used as a base camp for traveling teams when Canada hosts the World Cup in 2026.
Modernizing the indoor game
A large part of the reason why the CMSA did the upgrades was to make indoor soccer play like outdoor soccer.
“There’s many other provinces who have got away from indoor boarded play, so Calgary is playing a little bit of catch up here,” said Bruneau.
The same size fields without boards means that many of the special rules used for indoor soccer no longer apply.
Bruneau said that makes it easier for players, coaches, and officials to have consistent soccer seasons.
“Big picture, too, this presents the best opportunity for development of our players as we become more consistent from season to season,” he said.
“Equally as important, the elimination of the boards increases the safety of the game.”
Leveling the international playing field
FIFA accreditation comes in two levels: Quality and quality pro. The former was a standard created for recreational and community play.
The latter, quality pro, was a standard created for the very highest levels of professional and international soccer.
The Calgary West Soccer Centre is one of only three fields in Canada that have the FIFA Quality Pro rating, including TD Place Stadium, in Ottawa, and York Lions Stadium in Toronto. It is also the only facility in Calgary to have any level of FIFA turf accreditation.
Atlético Ottawa and York United FC are Canadian Premier League teams based at those two stadiums.
Bruneau said that the Calgary West Soccer Centre expands the pathways for players wanting to reach the top levels of soccer.
“Calgary has done a tremendously good job of developing players here and sending them on to the next level,” he said.
“We’re also fortunate to have the Canadian Premier League that started three years ago.”
A place where today’s players can become tomorrow’s soccer stars
Christine Sinclair, Canada’s gold-medal winning captain of the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team at the Tokyo Olympic Games, is one of the heroes of the sport that Bruneau hopes inspires players at the centre.
“She’s probably the greatest footballer of all time, including the men’s side,” Bruneau said.
“We hope that we have players that come out of here, and coaches and officials as well, that will come out of Calgary and make it to the national and the international stage and represent us well,” he said.
Alphonso Davies was also brought up as an example a player from Alberta who made it to the very highest levels of international soccer.
Davies played for the Vancouver Whitecaps before joining FC Bayern Munich. He also has played on the Canadian National Team.
Bruneau emphasized that the work that is being done at the grassroots level in Calgary, and in Canada, is what will translate into national soccer success in the future.
Building a community of sport
The upgraded facility now has the ability to host other sports. Rugby, ultimate frisbee, football, and lacrosse are among the sports that can now use the facility.
The goal for the centre and the association is to help build positive attributes in athletes.
“At the end of the day we’re all working towards developing the characteristics in our youth that make them successful as they grow,” said Bruneau.
“We want to build teamwork, we want to build resiliency, and work ethic, and so working with those other sports to be able to provide those opportunities for their youth as well, as we eventually expect them to contribute positively to society,” he said.
Ron Orr, Minister of Culture for Alberta, said in a prepared statement regarding the facility’s upgrades, that soccer centres contribute to “healthy and thriving communities.”
“They bring people of all ages and backgrounds together to play, to connect and to learn new skills for life on and off the field,” he said.
Calgary minor soccer season starts Saturday
The Calgary Minor Soccer Association season started on Saturday in Calgary.
The season saw a significant increase in both players and teams involved, with 627 teams and more than 8,500 players signed up to play 4,390 league games this season for the U7 through U17 age groups. Last year, there were 514 teams and 7,300 players.
More than 20,000 people are expected to join audiences for the games each week.
The centre is operating under the City of Calgary’s vaccine passport bylaw. Masks are required for all persons not playing on field, and visitors are encouraged to socially distance themselves.