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Top level men's soccer returns to town in the form of Guelph United FC

Club will play in League1 Ontario, with games planned for Sunday nights at Alumni Stadium
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Guelph United FC is an expansion team in the League1 Ontario men's soccer league and is to begin this year. Home games will be at Alumni Stadium.

The post-COVID sports scene in Guelph is to include a high-level men’s soccer team with the formation of Guelph United Football Club.

“We're an independent club that we started in December of 2020 to participate in the League1 Ontario league which is basically the premier league in Ontario, the highest level in Ontario,” Guelph United FC general manager and associate head coach Keith Mason said.

He’s been involved in coaching soccer in the city since 1982 and has been the head coach of the University of Guelph Gryphons varsity men’s team since 2000.

"A number of our (Gryphon) players play in this league and they're distributed right across the province," Mason said. "To be honest, for a number of years now I've had a number of players saying we should have one in Guelph and we could play as a team in the summer as well. Obviously, we'd never be able to play as a complete team because we have people from out of province and out of country on our team that return home in the summer. But the core of the team I suspect to be made of University of Guelph players and it's an opportunity for us to keep that team together as much as possible.

“The other reason for starting it is to give a player pathway for the youth of Guelph Soccer and area. It's important to say that we have two important partners in the University of Guelph and the Guelph Soccer Junior Gryphons. In regards for the Junior Gryphons, it creates a clear pathway from youth to elite soccer so people have got recreational streams in both youth and in adult and now they will have elite streams in adult and we will work with the club to build a true elite stream within the club.”

Guelph United FC is to be one of four expansion franchises in League1 Ontario, joining Scrosoppi FC of Milton, St. Catharines Roma Wolves and Waterloo United. That will increase the league’s membership to 20 teams, all located in southern Ontario from Darby FC of Whitby in the east to Windsor FC in the west. Most of the other teams are based in the Greater Toronto Area.

Justin Springer, a former Gryphon player who also played on the Saint Kitts and Nevis national team, is also an associate coach with Guelph United FC.

Along with current and former Gryphons, Guelph United FC is hoping to attract the top men’s soccer talent of the area. It is actually to field two teams with one in League1 Ontario’s top division and the other in the league’s reserve division. Players will move between the two teams depending on injuries and vacation time.

“We'll probably sign 15 or 16 to the first team and 22 or so to the reserve team,” Mason said.

While a league schedule has not been decided, Guelph United FC is to play its home games at Alumni Stadium and is planning for Sunday evening home games.

The league’s season usually runs from late April to the end of August, but the league’s 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19. This year’s season is expected to be shorter than normal due to the pandemic, possibly starting in late June or early July.

Guelph United FC is hoping to benefit from the delay as it will give the team more time to prepare for its inaugural campaign.

“We have high ambitions of what we want to do,” Mason said. “We want this to be the start of something special for the city of Guelph and even look to progress maybe to a higher league down the road. We have big ambitions.”