By Charlie Pinkerton
Off and running is the East Development League (EDL), a new indoor soccer league that will resist Ottawa’s frigid colder months with indoor play at the Louis Riel Dome this winter. More than 50 teams are a part of the league’s 5 age groups (Under-10, U12, U14, U16, U19), represented by 12 academies from Ottawa, Kingston, Gatineau and Montreal.
The league’s creation comes on the heels of a summer that saw a number of Ottawa club teams withdraw from their traditional home in the top Eastern Ontario district league and aim to establish an Ottawa Player Development Program for their top teams younger than the first Ontario Player Development League age group of U13. Though the league never came to fruition the clubs held friendlies against each other, which led to charges from excluded programs that a number of clubs had established a league illegal under the rules of Ontario Soccer. West Ottawa, Ottawa South United, Ottawa Gloucester, Cumberland United, Ottawa City, Ottawa Internationals, and Capital United were ruled not guilty of any misconduct by Ontario Soccer in a July ruling. Shortly after the ruling, the East Ontario District Soccer Association notified the East Region Soccer League that it would be operating district youth and competitive leagues starting Oct. 1. During the colder months, a 7 versus 7 league – called the EODSA Winter League (WDL) – separate for boys and girls with teams ranging from U9-U12 is home for play at indoor fields across the city.
The EDL on the other hand is the only 11 versus 11 soccer competitive league operating in Ottawa during the winter. It is not recognized by Ontario Soccer.
“We’re offering an alternative where there was a void,” said Hernani Eleuterio, the league administrator for the EDL and originally a project manager for BCN Sports, the functioning partner to the FC Barcelona Academy. BCN Sports is also a lead sponsor of the EDL also.
Eleuterio says the league has sought licensing by Canada Soccer and Ontario Soccer, but has been refused. Eleuterio admits that some clubs outside of the league have not showed a positive response, but he believes the overall reaction from Ottawa’s soccer community has been generally positive.
EDL play kicked off in November. Games are played on Saturdays and Sundays, primarily in Ottawa, but in Kingston and Montreal as well. The league has had one U8 festival, to allow the U8 affiliates of league teams the opportunity for game play. The winner of the league’s Winter Cup will be decided on the weekend of Dec. 16-17. The league champion of each age group will be decided by the Playoff Cup, to be held Mar. 3-4.
“Our intention is for Ontario Soccer to show up one day and say, ‘wow you’re doing a fantastic job with this league, we want to take it over,’ and we would say, ‘here it is,’” Eleuterio said.
The print version of this story incorrectly reads “Ottawa Soccer” in the final paragraph. “Ontario Soccer” is the correct organization.