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    Duane Rollins
    It’s classic steak versus sizzle conversation. In the early days of the CanPL what’s more important? Getting the nuts and bolts of the league settled, or selling the idea of a league to those who probably aren’t reading this article?
    It’s a conversation that is clearly happening at the league office right now. And, it’s a debate that is quite clearly being won by those on the marketing side of the conversation. There have been increasingly loud groans from many in the soccer community about how the CanPL is not living up to what many hoped it would be. This is even when it is getting more attention than almost anyone thought it would. 
    Part of this is probably growing pains. There was always going to be issues with a start up league. Marketing is important to the league. But, it is often at odds with some of the things that soccer operations would want to see.
    A perfect case in point would be open try-outs that took place last summer. Billed as a legitimate opportunity for players to get looked at by CanPL coaches, most people in the soccer world viewed them as a traveling circus. The try-outs were bloated by no-hopers and avoided by anyone who seriously is looking at the CanPL.
    More than one person has told be that, at best, the open trials discovered “a couple” players that they were unaware of and have a reasonable chance to sign. Most of the Canadian players that will end up in the league were discovered through extensive scouting that has taken place over the last year. A team of scouts has created database of players that numbers over 1,000. Few of them took part in the open trials.
    From a pure soccer standpoint, wouldn’t the CanPL coaches’ time have been better spent looking at true prospects rather than hundreds of beer league stars?
    From a pure soccer perspective it isn’t debatable. Clearly, it would have.
    This is where it gets tricky. The open try outs were never about finding players. Rather, they were about exposing more people to the league. On that level it worked. At every stop on the tour the local media flocked out to do stories on this new league. More potential fans were found. That’s a positive.
    So, I fully supported doing the tour, even while knowing that very few players, if any, would emerge. The Marketing value was high enough that the soccer needs could justifiably be pushed to the backseat.
    The question is balance though. When does the Marketing start to get in the way of the soccer?
    Yesterday might have been when. In an attempt to stay in the news (for the sake of staying in the news), the CanPL rushed out its first signings. It was a mixed bag of players -- decent enough prospects, mostly, with a couple vets and one potential star in Kyle Bekker. But, it was hardly a group that was going to generate much buzz outside of the hardest of the hardcore (who mostly already knew Kyle Bekker, the only player that might grab a headline, was going to Hamilton).
    The result was a tad underwhelming. A quick Google News search turns up a tiny amount of traction. The same blogs that were talking about the league last year are still talking about it today, but this was hardly leading off SportsCentre.
    It’s probably fair to suggest that the signings had limited harm. These were mostly guys that will battle for time – the big splashes won’t come until January at the earliest.  What’s troubling though is it was an example of the tail wagging the dog. There was no reason to announce signings now. They simply wanted to hit a news cycle and by putting an artificial schedule on it they might have rushed decisions on players that could prove to be the wrong fit once the real business begins.
    Generally by the time it’s clear that there is a problem it’s almost too late to fix it. If you nip it at the first evidence of it happening you can control things a lot better.
    There is a bit of evidence that the CanPL is starting to think of itself as a marketing company more than a soccer league. They’d be wise to remember that if the product is bad the consumer isn’t going to buy it, even if it’s wrapped up in a pretty bow.
    Marketing remains vital to the success of the league. But, with just five months to launch it’s time for the soccer to take priority.      

    Duane Rollins
    Professional soccer is coming to Mississauga. Well, sort of. Professional indoor soccer. Or, as they call it nowadays, arena soccer.
    The Mississauga Metro Stars (yes, you read that right), will begin play at the end of October in the Major Arena Soccer League, a 17 team league with teams across North America, including one in Monterrey, Mexico.
    This isn’t the first time that an indoor/arena/hocker/sockey team has operated in the GTA, although the history has not been strong. From 1980 to 1982 the Blizzard played in the NASL indoor season and the Toronto Shooting Stars played in the National Professional Soccer League in the 1996-97 season. The team’s owners walked away from the Shooting Stars just three games into season. They lost close to $1-million and averaged just 3,000 and change in attendance.
    I was one of the 3,000 on a couple occasions. My most lasting memory is the time the mascot got jammed in the door trying to get to the arena floor. The cheerleaders had to help him/her/it out. The team wasn’t very good and the atmosphere in the 15,500 seat Maple Leaf Gardens was…lacking. To say the least.
    So, this new enterprise will need to break new ground if it is to become popular. That’s not to say that it can’t – TFC was seen as a huge risk in 2006. That seems laughable now. So, who knows.
    Helping the cause will be one very familiar name. Dwayne DeRosario is coming out of retirement to play for the team (Adrian Cann, as well). In the early days, there will probably be more than a few people that make the trip out to Mississauga just to see DeRo play again.
    Beyond whether people will care about the team is just one half of the question though. The other half is whether Canadian soccer fans should want the team to find an audience. Many view…sockey…let’s go with sockey…as an abomination on the game that encourages all the wrong kids of technical play. Beyond that there is the matter of Mississauga as a potential CanPL market. Would having an arena team there take attention away from a “real” team?
    I have concerns about Mississauga as a market in general. Time will tell whether those concerns are misguided or, unfortunately, correct. Perhaps this sockey team will provide an opportunity for Mississauga soccer fans to prove that they can support a local team.
    Ultimately, this is harmless. The MetroStars aren’t going to change much about the soccer landscape in this region or country, but they might provide some lighthearted entertainment in the MLS offseason.
    And more DeRo! That alone makes this moderately interesting.
    Thanks to Dave Bailey for providing the photos of the event.    
     






    Duane Rollins
    One thing that was not mentioned during the biweekly State of the League article on CanPL.ca was the format that the league would actually take. We don’t know how many games there will be or whether there will be conferences or anything of that sort.
    We don’t know with 100 percent certainty anyway. It’s long been stated that the league wants to launch in a “European” style, meaning a single table with no playoff format.
    It’s always been the position of this space that it would be a mistake to do that.
    In the North American soccer bubble the conventional wisdom is that anything European is “correct” and that things North American are “wrong.” Ironically, the more local the football is in this part of the world, the more global the people involved in the leagues want things to be run.
    And, that seems to describe the Canadian Premier League.
    The problem with this thinking is that it ignores the vast majority of potential fans that do not think in such terms. These are fans that have grown up with North American sporting traditions and find European conventions, well, foreign. Not, better.
    At best these fans think the European model is neutral. At worse they view it as wrong.
    So, when I hear that the CanPL wants to launch without a playoff format…I shake my head.  
    Not having a championship game denies the league a massive marketing push. The disaster scenario is if a team wins the title with multiple weeks left in the season. North American fans will not show up to a game if all hope is lost. Not outside the hardcore, anyway.    
    And, the hardcore is not big enough to sustain this league. If it was thee would have been a CanPL 15 years ago. Hell, the CSL wouldn’t have folded.      
    I suspect this is a lesson the CanPL will learn quickly. I’ll be surprised if there isn’t some kind of playoff within the first few years of the league. It might just be a two team final, or something equally exclusionary. That’s fine. The league just needs its day to shine. There will be a significant CFL presence in the league. They need their Grey Cup Sunday.
    As a quick aside: I strongly disagree with the notion that the winner of a round robin tournament is somehow a more “legitimate” champion than the winner of a playoff. They are equally legitimate. So long as every team in a league is working towards the same championship goal then the winner is legitimate. Period.
    That said, there is a strong contingent of folks that are single table truthers out there that insist on idea that a playoff is a bastardization. So, it’s probably going to start that way. They might argue that the Voyageurs Cup will offer that opportunity for a showcase day, and it will. For TFC. Or the Whitecaps. Or Impact. It seems a long way off before we see an all CanPL final.
    There might be a middle ground. Maybe the CanPL could create a League Cup competition that is restricted to CanPL members. That way you’d be guaranteed a Cup final day and there would be another piece of hardware floating around that teams could win – there’s nothing like winning a title to boost attendance attention.
    Canadian soccer fans have gone a long time without having a special day to collectively celebrate the sport. It would be a shame to not create one now based on some kind of misguided desire to “be like Europe.”

    Duane Rollins
    If we must find something positive about the Ottawa Fury’s decision to play the 2019 season in the USL (and possibly beyond, if allowed) it’s that the Canadian Premier League was finally jolted out of its cone of silence.
    In what was said to be the first of a biweekly feature on CanPL.ca. League commissioner addressed many of the things that fans have been desperate to learn about. There is a lot to chew on – although not much precise details. Read it for yourself.
    The mic drop was this:
    "As far as a specific ownership group goes, we’ve had many discussions with the Fury and with OSEG through the last three years. They were very much included in all information and strategy over that time. As for a transition to the Canadian Premier League, we were quite willing to adapt in a number of areas, because we recognized the fact that they were an existing team playing in the USL this year, under different circumstances. We were prepared to accommodate them, specifically around details like players, soccer operations and player salaries. We had actually offered to have them operate under the exact same circumstances as they are now. We felt like we presented a series of accommodations on a number of different things in order for Ottawa to feel confident about playing in the Canadian Premier League. We did everything we could to help them feel welcome. Unfortunately, they made a different decision and we were surprised after the accommodations we had proposed, when they notified us last week that they were prepared to continue to operate in the USL. "  
    The emphasis is mine. This is a very polite Canadian throw down, but make no mistake: They dropped the gloves.
    They also said in the article that they were talking to “multiple groups” in the Capital region. I would suspect CanPL officials would say that they have always been open about the possibility of having multiple teams in the same market and that there is nothing beyond that statement other than it shows a willingness of the league to consider that.
    But, let’s be honest here. Having two teams in the capital right now makes as much sense as having two teams in Oklahoma City did a couple years ago when the NASL went head to head with the USL team there. The CanPL team would attract a loud, but small, group of Canadian loyalists, but as the established team in the market the Fury would have a massive advantage. I’m not sure it would be in the CanPL’s best interest to fight that fight.
    Aside: I’m willing to listen to a local argument about whether locating a team in Gatineau might allow for both to co-exist, with different identities and fan bases. Doing so would obviously solve the CanPL’s Quebec-less problem too.
    Regardless of whether it is a good idea or not, it’s clear that the CanPL is committed to finding a solution that finds them in that market. If rumours are to be believed the debate about whether to continue talks with OSEG last week was short (two words short. One of which rhymed with puck), so it seems unlikely that there will be much conversation between the groups in the near future.
    In a years time, when a new agreement between the Fury and USL is needed, the league will hope that it has more leverage than it does currently. Although about 70% of CanPL fans I surveyed on Twitter last week were opposed to Ottawa’s decision, my Twitter mentions tell me those numbers are likely reversed in Ottawa. That’s unlikely to change until we have concrete evidence of exactly what the league looks like. If the level is as good as league advocates hope and think it will be then OSEG might find itself on the outside looking in as another Capital group gets the licence and an outside force prevents further play in an American league.
       

    Duane Rollins
    They really should have put one in their own net just for the symbolism of it. I mean, 8-0 is nice – historic, even – but 8-1 would have been a delicious result in the first competitive game of John Herdman’s men’s coaching career.
    If you’re reading this site, I don’t need to explain why.
    Alas, the Red and White played it straight and find themselves solidly in second place of the CONCACAF Nations League qualification after most of match-day one is completed.
    The plus 8 is the vital number here. As I wrote Friday, there are some games where the sports clichés don’t factor. This was one. The US Virgin Islands, as they currently stand, would never beat Canada. Never. It doesn’t matter that the ball is round. It was literally impossible that they could win. The talent gap was that great.
    What they might have done, however, was hold Canada to a relatively small score – say 3-0 or 4-0. That doesn’t sound that bad, but in this format the big teams need to beat the minnows up. Otherwise they could easily find themselves on 10 points and out of group A (since the pot A teams play each other any team with 12 points will be guaranteed a spot in the top group once the full competition starts).
    So, Canada needed to run the score and run the score they did.
    Beating up USVI isn’t to be taken too seriously, but it is refreshing to have seen Canada so quickly get off the mark. That’s not always been this countries strong suit, after all.
    There haven’t been a lot of surprises thus far in the Nations League, but it has proven to be a lot of fun. As previously stated, this is about getting consistent games for countries that have struggled to book friendlies in the past.
    It’s also Gold Cup qualifying and although Canada would have to bomb in unimaginable ways to bring that into play, the expanded format of the 2019 tournament could make for some great drama towards the back end. A country like Saint Lucia, who won 3-0 this week, is suddenly in the mix and we should not dismiss how important it would be for a nation like that to make a Gold Cup.
    All in all it was a good weekend for Canada and CONCACAF.

    Duane Rollins
    The controversy in Ottawa this week is distracting Canadian soccer fans from what will mark John Herdman’s competitive debut as manager of the men’s national team. That’s maybe for the best, as the first game is hardly a page turner. The US Virgin Islands haven’t played a game since 2016 and have been outscored 14-0 in the last two games they played.
    USVI has won five games in its history, three of which have come against the British Virgin Islands in what I do hope is called the Virgin Derby.
    They do not have a single professional on the roster. The highest level any of the players are at would be either Marshall University or the NPSL’s Dallas City.
    This is arguably the weakest team Canada has ever faced in its history. It’s no hyperbole to suggest that you could field a stronger side by taking to top players from Toronto’s TSSL. Hell, you might not even need to take the top ones.
    The weakness of the match-up is likely why John Herdman is lukewarm about the CONCACAF Nations League. It’s hard to see what Canada gains from playing this game. And, this is not time for the peanut gallery to chime in about how you can’t take anything for granted and any team can upset another, etc. That’s not actually true. The gap is that large. The only question will be how big the victory is.
    However, it would be wrong to dismiss the Nations League’s importance based on this game. Even if Canada somehow completely bottles this classification period they still won’t be anywhere close to playing these types of teams again. This is the one and only match up they’ll get with the absolute bottom of CONCACAF. The worse shape Canada will realistically be in next year is in Group B, which will be against the Saint Kitts and Nevis and Guadeloupes of the world.
    Best case is a home and home with the US or Mexico next year. That’s a realistic outcome as the top 12  nations will be in league A. Even after 8-1, Canada was still in the top 12.
    Most people understand how important it will be to blood the young Canadian players in Central America and the Nations League provides the opportunity to do just that. San Pedro Sula? Bring it. Please.  
    Beyond Canada, the Nations League will also help countries like the US Virgin Islands by simply giving them games. Once they settle into the bottom group they’ll play competitive games against competition that is suited for them. The hope is that they’ll improve to the point where if there is a next time that Canada has to play them there might actually be a slight chance of the upset.
    That’s probably a while away, but it’s nice to see CONCACAF addressing this issue, which has been around for a long time. The truth is they aren’t asking the bigger nations to sacrifice much. The US and Mexico will still have plenty of windows available to book glamor friendlies (and will probably get a competitive game against each other in the Nations League every year). Basically, everyone wins.
    So, sit back and enjoy a rare stress free game involving Canada on Sunday. Bet the over.  

    Duane Rollins
    Multiple sources in the CanPL and in Canadian soccer have confirmed that the Ottawa Fury will struggle to be sanctioned after 2019, if not sooner.
    “Who is going to sanction them,” one source said? “They may get a ‘pity’ sanction for 2019, but beyond that?”
    Another person working in the game suggested that the CSA will be reluctant to directly challenge the Fury, but that they are working behind closed doors to challenge the legitimacy of the club playing in the US-based USL.
    “They won’t say anything publicly, but they are hoping CONCACAF steps in.”
    The suggestion is that CONCACAF may ban teams outside the top flight from participating in leagues outside their country. This would be in reaction to not just the Canadian situation, but also in the Caribbean where several teams have attached themselves to US leagues now and in the past. There is a movement within CONCACAF to create a D1 pan-Caribbean league and having clubs play in the US makes that more challenging. This could offer an opportunity to stop the practice moving forward.
    It’s also difficult to justify the three Canadian MLS teams, if you ban teams from below the top flight. Especially if, as the CSA has suggested, the CanPL is launched as a Division 1 league. It would seem that at the very least you would need to acknowledge that CanPL is a D2 league, if you were to allow TFC, the Whitecaps and Impact to remain in the American league, while barring Ottawa entry into USL.  
    Not everyone believes the CSA is ready to take the so-called “nuclear option” of denying sanctioning. There is a significant amount of people that are hoping that the Fury can be convinced to join the league, although everyone I spoke to today agrees that the likelihood of that happening for 2019 is close to zero.
    Regardless, it is clear that the idea that the CSA and CanPL are supportive of the Fury’s choice, as has been reported in Ottawa, is completely false. It is possible that the Fury will be allowed to play 2019 in USL, but it will not be with the blessing of the governing body. The best the Fury can hope for is the CSA’s silence.
    More tomorrow…

    Duane Rollins
    The Ottawa Fury are bailing on the Canadian Premier League. The longest standing Canadian D2 team said today that although they wished the CanPL well, they wanted to remain in the USL for the foreseeable future.
    In essence, they wanted to let others do the heavy lifting of growing the league while they play it ultra conservative and absurdly safe.
    If you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t going to be a balanced article.
    This was a short-sighted and selfish decision that in no way helps Canadian soccer or, in my opinion, the Ottawa Fury. Instead of getting into an exciting new project at the ground floor and playing in a league against markets that resonate with their fan base (and potentially having the possibility of qualifying into the CCL preliminary league) the Fury are going to stick with exciting and intense rivalry match-ups with the likes of Penn FC and New York Red Bulls II.
    Oh, and remain the Montreal Impact’s farm team, likely. Ottawa, after all, likes to be subservient to other Canadian cities. But, hey! The RedBlacks are good. OSEG has got that going for them, right?!
    The true shame here is at the player level. Ottawa has done a great job bringing in Canadian talent this year. The thinking was that they were setting themselves up for entry into the league*. Now, those players will either leave Ottawa or play in a league that will be at a lower standard than what the CanPL intends to be at.
    Let me repeat that. CanPL will be at a higher standard than USL. Quickly, if not immediately.
    *There is some rumblings that the biggest roadblock Ottawa had with CanPL is a gulf in opinion over how many contracts could be grandfathered into the league. We’ll discuss this more on this week’s Two Solitudes.
    The biggest question from here is what the CSA is going to do. In the past, the CSA has suggested that they would not sanction teams below the MLS level if there is a Canadian equivalent. However, that was when Victor Montagliani was running the show and since he’s left the power seems to have shifted back to the board from the president’s office. And the board isn’t as hardcore about things as Victor was.
    Also at question is whether Ottawa will be invited into the Voyageurs Cup next year. Denying enter into the competition could prove to be a middle ground punishment to encourage teams to leave America leagues. It would also be a good way to justify excluding the PDL teams, if the CSA still wishes to exclude them.
    The full nuclear option the CSA has is to completely deny sanctioning. That would effectively kill the team. Chances are they’d like to avoid that, but do not ignore the possibility.
    It’s going to be interesting…    

    Duane Rollins
    Toronto FC lost the game, but won the battle last night in Monterrey. Despite losing 3-2 on the night, the Reds advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals for the second time in its history, drawing 4-4 and advancing on the away goals rule.  
    For a more analytic/tactical breakdown of the game, you can listen to the Sober Second Thoughts podcast, which was recorded minutes after the final whistle, or to Kevin Laramee and my thoughts on today's SoccerToday. But, this article is going to attempt to put the game and tie in perspective. Where does it rank in terms of TFC's greatest nights?
    In this week's The Big List we rank to top 17* TFC results:
    (*The Big List doesn't restrict itself to 10...)
     
    No 17 - July 27, 2013 -- Weids in the rain -- Toronto 2, Columbus 1
    The game didn't mean anything. At all. Unless you were there and stuck it out in the rain. When Andrew Wiedeman, the greatest finisher of the modern era, slid that goal in to end the misery of a 12 game winless streak in MLS and an oh-for-life streak against the Crew...man, it was the medicine many of us needed in that otherwise terrible 2013 season.   
     
    No 16 -- March 28, 2012 -- The Rumble at BMO -- Toronto FC 1, Santos Laguna 1
    It was only the first leg and they didn't even win, but this was  a game that had everything -- JDG's best game as a Red, a villain in Herc Gomez, false hope and, of course, a brawl at the final whistle. Maybe the funnest game ever played at BMO Field.
    No 15 -- Oct. 20, 2007 - PITCH INVASION! - Toronto 2, New England 2
    2007 was special. For many of us it's remembered as fondly as a first summer love -- it wasn't perfect and there were as many lows as highs, but the highs were so amazing. And it ended on a magical fall day when a club hero scored a stoppage time goal to cap off a two goal come back draw and a love affair that remains to this day. And a pitch invasion for a draw!
    No 14 -- March 14, 2012 -- The worst champions in the world -- Toronto 2, Galaxy 1
    Everyone remembers the Dome game -- and understandably so, it was the game that probably kept TFC relevant in the market through a lot of bad years -- but they didn't win the tie with the 2-2 home draw. They did that -- unexpectedly -- in LA a week later. 
    No 13 -- July 11, 2012 - Tassels Revenge -- Toronto 3, Vancouver 2
    Another game that meant nothing much in he grad scheme of things, but man was it fun. A virtual Greek tragedy, it looked like TFC had blown it again when Darren Mattocks jumped over the CN Tower to score a stoppage goal equalizer. But then Terry Dunfield -- known lovingly as Tassels by many TFC fans -- ensured he'd never have to buy a drink in Toronto a gain with one of the most fondly remembered game winners of all time.
     No 12 -- March 13, 2018 -- Wait, we won? -- Toronto 2, Tigres 3
    Yesterday's game was an epic, no doubt, that featured an all world free kick, bizarre own goal and one very CONCACAF penalty call. Ultimately the collective 4-4 aggregate series would probably rank in the top 5 all-time, but in isolation this game falls outside top 10 because they did ultimately lose it. 
    No 11 -- June 29, 2016 -- Poor, poor Vancouver -- Toronto 1, Whitecaps 2
    Will Johnson broke his leg while scoring a goal that won the Voyageurs Cup (on away goals) over snakebitten Vancouver on the last kick of the game. It was the start of a magically 18 month run of winning for TFC.    
    No 10 -- Oct 14, 2015 -- PLAYOFFS! YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS?! -- Toronto 2, Red Bulls 1
    After nine frustrating, infuriating, bizarre and impossibly bad seasons TFC clinched its first playoff appearance. Good thing nothing else was happening in Toronto sports that night.
    No 9 -- October 18, 2011 -- Where did that come from??? -- Toronto 3, Dallas 0
    Completely out of nowhere a truly terrible TFC team that was having an awful season went to Dallas -- a stadium they never win in -- and smoked FC Dallas 3-0 to advance the CCL quarterfinals. Those CCL runs were what kept interest in the team alive through the dark years. This win is underappreciated in TFC history. 
    No 8 -- Nov 22, 2016 -- Gagner la Bataille; Perdre la Guerre -- Toronto 2, Montreal 3
    The Montreal Impact had scored six straight playoff goals against Toronto. 50,000 Montreal fans were having a laugh at the clowns. Then Michael Bradley decided that enough was enough and the dark clouds faded away. The Impact have feared clowns ever since. 
    No 7 -- May 12, 2007 -- The 24th Minute -- Toronto 3, Chicago 1
    The team's first goal, first win and first cult hero born all on the same day. 
    No 6 -- June 27, 2017 -- The forgotten trophy -- Toronto 2, Montreal 1
    Lost in the excitement of TFC winning MLS Cup and Supporters Shield last year was the V-Cup win, which arguably was the most exciting game of the season. The stadium was as loud when Giovinco scored the late winner than at any time in the playoffs. 
    No 5. -- Nov 29, 2017 -- When Toronto Needed a Hero -- Toronto 1, Columbus 0
    Maybe Luke Wilman's greatest call of his career -- "When Toronto FC needed a hero, Jozy Altidore delivers." Also, you can't win the MLS Cup if you don't make it there. 
    No 4 -- June 18, 2009 -- The Miracle in Montreal  -- Toronto 6, Montreal 1
    The undisputed No 1 on the list for most of TFC's history, the day TFC needed to score five goals to win and did (while adding another for good measure) will forever remain part of the club's lore. Also, TFC's first trophy was won that night. 
    No 3 -- March 6, 2018 -- To be the best you've gotta beat the best -- Toronto 2, Tigres 1
    The first leg win -- and especially the way it happened, coming from behind and with a local player scoring the winner -- is going to be high on this list forever. It was the best team TFC has ever beaten and one of the best night's in BMO Field's history. 
    No 2 -- Nov 30, 2017 -- &^$&#&$!!11!1!! -- Toronto 5, Montreal 2
    Without a doubt the most exciting, emotionally draining, insane night that any of us will likely ever experience at BMO Field. The memories of that night will last a lifetime. But, it can't be No 1 because...
    No 1 -- Dec 9, 2017 -- Campioni! -- Toronto 2, Seattle 0
    Let's not be cute. It's going to be hard to ever displace this one from top spot.
     

    Duane Rollins
    What is the only country in the world to have hosted ever FIFA event in both the men's and women's game?
    It's just a trivia question, but one that the Canadian Soccer Association badly wants to be the answer to. As of right now that answer is no one. If the United Bid of 2026 wins the day, Canada will lay claim to winning a race that no one else realized they were running (if we conveniently consider the 2002 Women's u19 event the current FIFA Women's U17 World Cup that is, but let's not get bogged down in literal facts right now). 
    The idea that this frozen land of ice hockey loving hosers that call the game soccer could possibly be the first to host every potential event is a compelling one and one that will get trotted out a lot in the build up to the bid vote and (hopefully for the CSA) over the eight year preparation for hosting.
    The dream of landing the big prize of the men's World Cup has been openly talked about in Canadian soccer circles for at least a decade and work on a bid has been ongoing for far longer than most people realize. However, it was only in recent years that the CSA was convinced to drop their solo bid and instead attach their hopes to the United States where they are very much a minor partner along with Mexico.
    It was really a path of least resistance for Canada. The US obviously has some incredible infrastructure advantages that neither Canada or Mexico can match, without building new stadiums themselves. Although Canada could build the stadiums -- We're rich. We could --  in today's political climate getting stadiums built with public funds is an exceptionally difficult thing to do. 
    But, also in today's political climate the United States has elected a man who is...let's call him divisive. That shouldn't offend any of his supporters that might read this, as they value that divisiveness.
    That's their choice, but what matters here is that those who did not chose, or have a choice, to elect Donald Trump President do have a vote in the election to chose the 2026 World Cup host. 
    And, many of those people do not appreciate Trump calling their country a shithole, as he was perceived to have done last month.    
    There's no sense being coy about this. Trump is an obstacle to the bid winning. Canadian soccer has attached itself to the Trump Train, whether it wanted to or not. 
    And the train could throw the bid straight off the tracks. 
    When Morocco launched its bid to upset the United 2026 bid few gave it any chance. Now, however, many people are starting to do the math and are getting very nervous. As much as the ExCo voting structure was a mess that gave us Qatar and Russia, it was a little more predictable. The new one country, one vote system is a bit of a mystery.
    That said, some math:
    United Bid -- 
    Nearly sure thing: CONCACAF 38 (Canada, USA, Mexico and Nicaragua) not eligible) votes, Western Europe 31, Oceania 14 + Japan and Australia = 84 votes
    Morocco -- 
    Nearly sure thing: Africa 55 votes (Morocco not eligible), Middle East 12, Central Asia 6 votes + North Korea  = 74 votes
    That leaves the rest of Asia (26 votes), South America (10 votes) and Eastern Europe (24 votes) as your decider. Can the United Bid find 20 votes from that 60? 
    Probably?
    Probably isn't that reassuring, especially since much of Canada's rebuilding plan on the men's side is dependent on getting this bid. And it's increasing becoming harder to argue that a Canada only bid would have been any worse off than tying ourselves to the political anchor that is the current state of US politics. 
     
     
         
     
     

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