TORONTO, ONT – If one thing is evident in U SPORTS women’s soccer, there are too many blowouts to be considered a competitive league.
While the four conferences manage their competition setup and provide a path for teams to compete at U SPORTS nationals, the regular season schedule is often filled with lopsided scorelines.
So far in the 2023 season, seven games have seen wins of seven or more goals. Several more have been won by six-goal margins, and it’s only three weeks into the season.
When this happens, nobody benefits – the winning team doesn’t improve and in reality, purely risks injury. At the same time, the losing side doesn’t get any benefit from chasing a game they lost before kickoff.
Some results this season:
Ontario Tech 12-0 RMC
Laurier 9-0 Algoma
Windsor 9-0 Algoma
Acadia 8-0 Mount Allison
StFX 8-0 Moncton
UBCO 8-1 UNBC
Acadia 7-0 UPEI
As Canada begins to trail behind the world in women’s football development, and Project 8 will introduce the professional game domestically, it may be time to re-think the top level of university play and bring it closer to the levels seen in League 1 Canada throughout the summer. At some point, the parity and competitiveness could potentially reach the level of an NCAA division.
With that in mind, and the four conferences, AUS, RSEQ, OUA and Canada West, remaining as is, 49 Sports has re-structured what could prove to be a more competitive soccer setup for U SPORTS soccer — while maintaining the integrity of the game and the national championship.
The re-alignment would also ensure that good teams face good teams, further pushing team, program, and student-athlete development. While it will be imposible to completely eliminate lopsided matches, this new setup could limit the potential of those opportunities.
One caveat, however, is that the RSEQ tends to be a competitive conference and has a competitive structure, with League 1 Quebec providing ample opportunity for players out of season. We’ve chosen not to change the RSEQ, as it has only seen a winning margin of more than five once since the COVID-19 pandemic when the Montreal Carabins defeated the UQTR Patriotes 7-1 in 2021.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter/X.
Integrated tiers, promotion-relegation to OUA women’s soccer
The OUA is the conference where the competitiveness and blowout problem is most prevalent, as programs such as Algoma and RMC have proven over each season that they are different from the rest.
A two-division, tiered system featuring promotion and relegation would allow the OUA to stick with the in-division schedule while offering more competitive matches.
Here’s how that would look:
BLUE DIVISION (tier 1):
- Ottawa Gee-Gees
- Queen’s Gaels
- Western Mustangs
- York Lions
- Nipissing Lakers
- McMaster Marauders
- Guelph Gryphons
- Toronto Varsity Blues
- Carleton Ravens
GREEN DIVISION (tier 2)
- TMU Bold
- Ontario Tech Ridgebacks
- Laurentian Voyageurs
- Algoma Thunderbirds
- Trent Excalibur
- RMC Paladins
- Brock Badgers
- Windsor Lancers
- Laurier Golden Hawks
- Waterloo Warriors
- Top 5 from Blue
- Top 3 from Green
- Top 4 from Blue are seeded 1-4 in QFs
- Top 3 from Green are seeded 5-7 in QFs
- 5th in Blue vs 4th in Green one-game playoff for 8th seed in QF
- The top 3 teams from the Green division regular season move to Blue division for next season
- The bottom 3 teams from Blue division move to Green division for next season
Canada West makes three groups
In Canada West, travel is a more significant issue than anywhere else. With the conference spanning BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, there are limited options for running the conference. However, there are some teams in need of more competitive games.
A few years ago, the conference even had a more competitive structure, albeit imperfect and requiring slightly more travel. Below are 49’s proposed realigned divisions in CanWest.
- UBC Thunderbirds
- Victoria Vikes
- TWU Spartans
- UFV Cascades
- UBCO Heat
- MRU Cougars
- Calgary Dinos
- MacEwan Griffins
- Manitoba Bisons
- Winnipeg Wesmen
- UNBC Timberwolves
- TRU Wolfpack
- Alberta Pandas
- Lethbridge Pronghorns
- Saskatchewan Huskies
- Regina Cougars
- Top 2 teams from each white and red, and top team from black earn berths to QFS
- 3rd place team from white plays 2nd place team from black AND 3rd place team from red plays next best available team. Winner of these games adance as seeds 7/8 in the QFs.
These divisions split up competitive programs and shelter those not as prominent while playing a playoff system that should, in theory, avoid blowouts and allow teams to test themselves against similar quality, pushing forward in their improvement.
AUS takes on integrated tiers, pro-rel
The AUS is an intriguing conference concerning competitiveness, as it tends to struggle outside of a few select schools when it gets to the U SPORTS national stage. At the same time, the provinces currently need a League 1 structure to develop players, and the limited population and infrastructure impact footballing development in the region.
There are plans for League 1 Atlantic in 2024.
Still, there are ways to minimize the amount of lopsided matches and introduce a more exciting product for programs that may be in tough to contend for U SPORTS titles.
I’ve suggested a similar system to the OUA, with two divisions. However, it features cross-division play.
Each division features five teams, and teams would play home and away to each of their decision opponents to equal eight games. To fill out the remainder of the 12 game schedule, there would be randomized cross-division play for the other four games.
YELLOW DIVISION (tier 1)
- Cape Breton Capers
- Dalhousie Tigers
- Acadia Axewomen
- StFX X-women
- SMU Huskies
NAVY DIVISION (tier 2)
- Memorial Sea-Hawks
- UNB Reds
- Mt. Allison Mounties
- UPEI Panthers
- Moncton Aigles Bleu
- Top 2 teams from Yellow and top from Navy qualify for SFs
- 3rd place from Yellow plays 2nd place from Navy for final spot in SFs
- Top 2 teams from Navy regular season get promoted to Yellow
- Bottom 2 teams from Yellow regular season get relegated to Navy