VANCOUVER, BC. - MAY 30: The Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake at BC Place Saturday, May 30, 2015. Photo By Derek Cain / ISN.

VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Saskatchewan Soccer Association (SSA) announced on Friday an official player development partnership. This partnership is the final piece to the provincial organization’s fully developed High Performance Stream plan. The alliance between both organizations creates a pathway for youth throughout the province to pursue their dreams of playing within higher echelons of the game.

“We could not be happier to partner with the Saskatchewan Soccer Association,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “Canada is a vast country, but through this partnership we are able to bring our common goals together to strengthen player development and hopefully, by design, see more young talents emerge from Saskatchewan.”

The ‘Caps MLS roster currently features Saskatoon Youth Soccer product Brett Levis, while the club is also home to fellow Saskatoon resident and U-18 Canadian national team goalkeeper Thomas Hasal on the U-18 Residency team. Both players spent time within the provincial competitive stream and on SSA provincial teams.

With this agreement, Whitecaps FC will now become an integral facet to the provincial delivery system and is the culmination of many years work for the provincial organization.

“The Saskatchewan High Performance Stream is reaching new heights with our partnerships with Whitecaps FC and the Canadian Soccer Association with our male and female provincial pathways respectively,” noted Terrol Russell, SSA high performance stream manager. “We are very proud that our provincial system aligns directly with that of our partners and provides Saskatchewan’s soccer participants with direction, guidance, and ongoing support.  The resources and experience within the Vancouver Whitecaps FC organization, further strengthens the impact we can make in helping our participants reach their dreams.”

Whitecaps FC and the SSA will collaborate to enhance current high performance opportunities. The top performers from SSA High Performance Stream programming will filter into the professional club environment in Vancouver through the Whitecaps FC Residency and Girls Elite REX program in partnership with BC Soccer, along with regular visits from Vancouver staff to Saskatchewan. Within Saskatchewan, Whitecaps FC programming will continue to be overseen by head coach, Bryce Chapman. Players will also have the opportunity to travel to Vancouver for further evaluations and tournaments through the WFC Residency program and the female Super REX pathway.

The partnership builds on Whitecaps FC’s existing academy centre in Saskatoon established in 2013, as well as the club’s Regina academy programs launched in 2015.

Whitecaps FC are now partnered with seven provincial soccer associations across Canada as the Saskatchewan Soccer Association joins founding provincial partners BC Soccer, as well as the Alberta Soccer Association, Manitoba Soccer Association, Soccer Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association, and the Prince Edward Island Soccer Association.

In total, the Whitecaps FC academy centre network totals 19 locations in eight of 10 provinces, including London and Ottawa academy centres in Ontario.