Billed as an “elite men’s soccer” team, the Sudbury Cyclones men’s soccer team will soon call Greater Sudbury home.
“Soccer’s more than just a game, it's a global phenomenon right now that’s uniting the world and people from everywhere,” Sudbury Wolves Sports and Entertainment (SWSE) owner Dario Zulich told local reporters during a media conference on Wednesday.
“We believe Sudbury is ready to embrace this world-class sport.”
SWSE is introducing League1 Ontario’s newest team to the Nickel City, and shared the latest developments during Wednesday’s media conference at Sudbury Arena.
Central to the press conference was the introduction of Dayna Corelli as the team’s general manager, and Connor Vande Weghe as the team’s sporting director.
The Cyclones are named after Sudbury’s last semi-professional soccer team, which dissolved more than 40 years ago after playing their final game in 1980.
The opportunity to create a new semi-professional soccer team in Greater Sudbury, to “fill a void that’s existed in our soccer landscape,” as Corelli put it, first emerged in 2014, when League1 Ontario formed.
“For years, we were dreaming of the opportunity to create a soccer organization that could truly compete at this level,” she said. “We wanted to bring elite soccer back to Sudbury.”
Last year, League1 Ontario announced that their existing 20 teams would be divided into two tiers (Men’s Premier at the top, followed by Men’s Championship) for the 2024 season, with a third tier consisting of 10 new teams to be created, called League2.
The Sudbury Cyclones will come on board as one of these new League2 teams, with the other nine yet to be announced.
Each year’s top team in each tier has the opportunity to move up a tier, while the bottom team in the top two tiers is bumped down.
The Sudbury Cyclones will kick off their inaugural season in spring 2024, at James Jerome Field, with organizers anticipating nine home games and nine away games during the season. Various final details such as who will coach the team, and game dates/times are anticipated in the coming weeks.
“We want to find local players, so if you’re a local player playing in Sudbury now’s a really exciting time ... to find your way into that first team,” Vande Weghe said, adding that try-out opportunities will be announced soon.
They’ll also draw players from a wider network, and are allowed to enlist up to three international players.
It’s an open-age league, meaning anyone 16 years of age and older is eligible to play.
Although the Sudbury Cyclones are starting off with a men’s team, Corelli said their goal is to create a women’s team as soon as they’re able to.
Upgrades to the James Jerome Field infrastructure will be considered in the event the games begin drawing significant crowds, Corelli said.
In addition to creating two semi-professional soccer teams, those behind the Sudbury Cyclones are also starting a soccer academy for local girls and boys to feed into the teams.
“It’s to ensure that players in our local community who are wanting to be the best player they can be, possibly professional players, have the opportunity to do so by going up our Cyclone ranks,” Vande Weghe said, adding the local effort will begin at the U14 level.
Corelli played soccer for Team Ontario in 2005 and 2006, representing Sudbury and bringing home a national gold medal from the Rocky Mountain Cup.
She also played soccer at Laurentian University, where she completed high-performance coaching certifications through Canada Soccer. She has additional experience as a project manager and professor at Cambrian College.
Vande Weghe worked at the front office for the Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer team. He also served as goalkeeper for the Laurentian University Voyageurs Soccer Team from 2015-18, as well as the Thunder Bay Chill of the United Soccer League.
Vande Weghe holds a Canada Soccer C level coaching licence and a Goalkeeper Coach certificate from Ontario Soccer. He will be overseeing the sporting side of the organization’s soccer operations.
Tyler Clarke is a reporter at Sudbury.com.