Soccer enrolments in Cambridge have hit an all-time high as Canada made an appearance at the World Cup in Qatar.
Despite Canada’s quick showing on the sports biggest stage, Cambridge Youth Soccer(CYS) has had the most enrolments for their indoor program in the last 50 years.
“We had around 1,600 people sign up for our indoor program this year,” said Derek Bridgman, general manager for CYS. “I think this can speak to the popularity of the sport, especially when we have the men’s team getting into the World Cup and the amazing success from the Women’s team over the years.”
A normal season would see around 1,200 kids lace up their cleats and hit the pitch, but now around 60 entrees have to be put on a waiting list because of the high volume. Bridgman is also expecting the outdoor season to have around 2,000 or more kids sign up.
“We really needed this year with some good numbers,” he added. “The last few years with the pandemic, we were always worried; would there be another season, are we going to be able to do this.”
With 2023 being the first year of pure optimism for the program, CYS is looking to bounce back in a very special year.
In 1973 when Cambridge was amalgamated, so were their soccer clubs creating Cambridge Youth Soccer. This year Bridgman and the team are working on some events for the anniversary with some surprise updates to the programming.
The 50 anniversary of the club will also coincide with the opening of the new Cambridge soccer complex on Fountain Street. This will provide the program with extra dedicated fields to house all of the players in the summer months.
“Having been trying to get this thing built since 2012, it definitely feels a bit surreal for me to see all those different surfaces already up,” said Bridgman. “We didn’t have a true dedicated space to play outdoors and we were at the point where we were going to have to travel outside of the city to play.”
Bridgman describes the surfaces that the city offered before as un-kept and not up to the standards the club would like to use.
Many cities like Waterloo and Guelph have colleges and universities that provide high level surfaces for local clubs, but Cambridge lacks those institutions.
With Canada helping host the next World Cup, CYS is looking forward to continuing to offer athletes a way into higher levels of the game.
Currently, they have a League1 team, Cambridge United, that is a pro-am team that serves as a critical bridge between the high-performance youth level and the professional levels of the game.
“You see guys like Alistair Johnston who was playing in League1 and now is part of the national team and started in the World Cup,” said Bridgman. “This program is giving hope to the youth here that if they train hard enough and put in the work, they can also have that level of success.”
CYS is happy to be back, celebrating their 50 anniversary and will hopefully be playing on their new fields in the spring.
“We are just excited to be playing full force again and we want to make sure that we are honouring the last 50 years and keep going for another 50,” said Bridgman.