WLU coaches launch new team

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

This week, the Kitchener-Waterloo region will welcome an entirely new level of soccer.

Head coach Barry MacLean and assistant coach Niki Budalic of Wilfrid Laurier’s women’s soccer team will be introducing a new Professional Development League (PDL) and W-League franchise in the area this upcoming season.

The W-League is the top level of professional women’s soccer in Canada.

The United Soccer League (USL) is composed of teams from across Canada and the United States and the PDL and W-League fall under its umbrella. According to MacLean, it is the longest standing professional soccer league in North America.

“The group that I’m working with had a team in Hamilton and we moved it as a Kitchener-Waterloo franchise,” said MacLean, president of the franchise in K-W.

“We thought this was a better community that it would be more supportive, had a better soccer infrastructure and probably better corporate support. Just the demographics of the area were better.”

The PDL will have players that are playing in national competition for under-23, under-20 and under-17 teams from various academies and institutions.

MacLean mentioned that players have come up with some of the Major Soccer League (MLS) academies as well as the NCAA.

“It serves as a developmental ground for all of the players,” said Budalic, who will act as the manager of operations. “If you look at the most recent MLS SuperDraft where they’re drafting players into the top division here in North American, six players with PDL experience went in the top ten, 27 former PDL or Super-20 alumni were selected overall out of 38 spots.”

According to MacLean, the support around K-W has been overwhelming. The Kitchener Soccer Club has also joined the Kitchener franchise as a formal alliance.

“It’s kind of taken a life of its own and right now it’s got a real buzz,” he said.

A formal announcement will be made Wednesday afternoon to introduce the new franchise, which will be known as the K-W United FC.

The league will hold open tryouts from April 19 to April 21, with their kick-off dinner being hosted on May 9.

K-W’s women’s team will start their season May 22 at home against London Gryphons, while the men’s team will start May 23 in Kentucky against the River City Rovers.

Although both MacLean and Budalic will be taking on roles with the franchise, they both say it will not intrude on their time with the Laurier soccer program.

Budalic also acts as an assistant coach to Mario Halapir, head coach of Laurier’s men’s soccer team.

“This is more of a complement to what we’re doing right now,” MacLean said.

“We’re hoping from a recruiting standpoint, this is an enhancement to the Laurier programs. From a fan base, [we are] hoping to create a better fan base with a couple alliances with youth clubs.

“Some of the players we have now [at Laurier], maybe this is a platform to help them go on to bigger things.”

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