There was some great news for the Prairies on Wednesday as it was announced that a new Canada Soccer women’s National Development Centre will open in Alberta in 2024.

The Alberta NDC will join existing programs in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Governed by the Alberta Soccer Association, the new centre will serve Under-15 to Under-18 female players across the province and strengthen and simplify the pathway for those young Alberta players to join Canada’s national team at various age levels.

The program will consist of a full-time development initiative as well as a “meaningful games” program throughout the year. It will include initiatives to recruit, develop, and train female coaches as well as players, as well as providing support in the areas of female leadership and mentorship.

“It is a priority of ASA to increase female participation at all levels and programs in soccer and our new NDC will be a powerful tool to help us accomplish that,” read the statement.

The ASA added that the new program will also serve as part of the Alberta pathway for players to join Project 8’s pro women’s soccer league, which is slated to begin play in 2025.

The historic Calgary Foothills program have already been confirmed as one of the first three teams to join that league for its inaugural season. The Foothills currently have a women’s team in the United Women’s Soccer League and are also committed to the new League1 Alberta women’s program.

Between League1 Alberta, Project 8’s new league, and now the new NDC, it’s an exciting time for women’s and girls’ soccer in Wild Rose Country.

“The Alberta NDC will provide greater opportunity to recognize Alberta talent,” said ASA Executive Director Lisa Grant. “What’s particularly exciting is how it will benefit our provincial female athletes and their families. No longer will players have to move out of the province to advance their soccer careers. This program also aligns with the ASA’s Strategic Plan main pillars to Develop, Advance, and Build.”

The existing NDCs play an important role in developing and nurturing players for the present and future of Canada. There has been a shining example in recent days, with Jeneva Hernandez-Gray, a star for the Whitecaps Elite Girls Academy program at the NDC in Vancouver and a star for Canada at youth levels, receiving her first call-up for the senior CanWNT.

With the right investment and application, the system works. It just needs expanding and reinforcing. The move into Alberta is the latest step towards achieving that goal.

There is not a single Alberta native in the Canadian women’s national team program right now. With progress like this, that may change before too long.