Following last summer's controversy over a limit on non-South Asian athletes, the United Summer Soccer Association has voted to remove the ethnicity exclusive rule in its U13 and U14 boys and girls divisions.
USSA committee members voted to temporarily remove the Indo-Canadian Soccer Association's Rule 32, which allowed a maximum of four "imports," defining imports as players who aren't of South Asian backgrounds.
The Now broke the controversial story in August after Debbie Christiansen's then 13-year-old son's team was sidelined because it had seven imports, despite making it through the registration process months before.
"We've decided we would like to try it on a trial basis to open it up all the way to U14 and then keep status quo on the remaining age groups," said Sim Samra, who sits on the committee.
"We'd like to see how that sits for this coming term and then we'll definitely re-evaluate at the end of the year.
"It was a pretty unanimous decision to open those age groups up," he added.
The rule caused problems last year when Christiansen's son's team, the B.C. Tigers Sports Club, was told it had to rearrange its seven imports if it wanted to continue playing in USSA tournaments. Many of the players are good friends and they didn't want to get split up onto other teams.
Christiansen checked with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to find out if it was legal for a league to discriminate against players and found that there are exceptions.
Section 41 of the provincial Human Rights Code states that non-profit social organizations operating primarily to promote the interests of an identifiable group or class "must not be considered to be contravening this Code because it is granting a preference to members of the identifiable group or class of persons." The USSA is a registered non-profit and fees are put toward running the league.
At the time, the USSA had concerns that removing the rule would cause registration with the league to skyrocket and create too many teams for the league to handle, but Samra recently said the association is not concerned with the potential rise in registration.
While the U13 and U14 divisions will open up, the U15 to U18 divisions will continue to have two-import limits.
Christiansen said she's happy her son and his B.C. Tigers teammates from last year will all get to play on the same team this season in U14, which starts up in May.
"We just put our registration in and we are joining the USSA spring-summer season - because we're allowed to now," said Christiansen with a chuckle.
However, she said she's unsure how the committee will vote at the end of the season after trying out the younger divisions without the import rule.
"I don't know if I'm confident (that they'll open up the older age groups) but
I hope they do," she said.