Stephen Appiah was 14 years and 322 days old when he made his senior debut for Ghana. He is the 8th youngest player to play a full international and the youngest to have played for a country that has qualified for a senior World Cup.
Although Appiah was never really a global superstar, his was a career that nearly any player would have been proud of. He had 67 senior caps for Ghana, scoring 14 goals. He won a FIFA u17 World Cup, was an Olympian and played in several AFCON tournaments. On the club side, he managed to find the field for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Juventus, where he made 10 Champions League appearances.
I can’t say that I remember what kind of hype Appiah had back on Nov 11, 1995 when he made his debut, but I suspect there was a lot of excitement about him. You don’t play a kid who isn’t even 15 yet unless you think he has immense talent and potential. However, I know this: If that debut had taken place even 10 years later we all would remember the hype. In November ’95 only geeks and the truly obsessive were using the Internet beyond checking their email and patiently waiting three hours for the pixels to reveal what that photo was going to show.
In 2005, everyone was on the Internet and we had started to move into the hype first, substance last world that we currently live in. I do remember talking about the soccer poster boy for lost potential, Freddy Adu, in 2005.
Let’s not pile on Freddy’s soccer grave here, but we can all agree that the hype of the mid 2000s never really panned out for him. In fact, Adu’s biggest contribution to modern North American soccer has been to become a lesson to point to when hyping up young players.
“Pump the breaks, we don’t want to see ____ become another Freddy Adu,” is something you consistently hear whenever a young player breaks through.
It’s something we’ve heard in relation to the 2017 Gold Cup Golden Boot and Young Player of the tournament winner, Alphonso Davies. At just 16, he continues to be protected at every turn by both the Whitecaps and the CSA. The shadow of Adu looms large, despite the fact that Adu wasn’t a product of this country, nor of the MLS academy era.
There’s some good in that. You do want to manage a young player to a certain extent. At the Gold Cup, Davies’ play did fade as the tournament wore on. The quarterfinal was probably his least effective game.
But, here’s the thing. For every Adu there’s an Appiah. There is no direct correlation between debuting young and failing. There’s not even a direct connection between hype and failing. So, we need to treat Davies like his own man (boy?) and let his story tell itself.
As fans, we can also allow ourselves to be excited by not just Davies but by all the young players that are stepping up for Canada on both the men’s and women’s teams. Jordyn Huitema, Raheem Edwards, Deanna Rose and Davies are the future and the future, for once, looks pretty good. Be excited. Celebrate their accomplishments thus far and dream of a future with even more glory.
Davies story isn’t just one that’s being noticed in Canada. You don’t win a Golden Boot at a Confederation Championship event without ears perking up around the football world. When he becomes eligible to be transferred the names that are going to be attached to him are going to make long-term Canadian fans dizzy. That’s in the near future.
But, in the meantime Vancouver and Canadian fans should enjoy the remaining time we have with this kid and stop worrying about whether we’re putting too much pressure on him. Talent finds its way.
In short, pump the breaks less and spread the wings more.
Back in the glory days of the 24thMinute.com (no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, he says ironically) I used to publish a monthly projection of the MLS standings that was designed to take into consideration the massive swing in fortune between teams playing at home and on the road.
Many TFC fans got irrationally angry at such a suggestion because, at the time, they had seen no evidence of teams excelling at home. Man, weren’t those early days fun! However, the simply projections proved to be remarkably accurate throughout the years that I published them.
After a Twitter exchange with Kurt Larson and Doug Roberson of AJC.com earlier this week I was compelled to revisit my old tracking system. The impetus to the discussion and my curiosity was the fact that Atlanta has an absurd six game home stand in September. As with TFC’s absurd road trips to start 2015 and 2016 the reason for the long stretch at home is stadium related. The Falcons are building the latest shrine to the NFL (No, Tom Brady has not been invited to the grand opening) and Atlanta United is sharing in the spoils. By all accounts it’s going to be one hell of a stadium. It must be because it’s not exactly one of those Soccer Specific Stadiums Don Garber talks about when it fits his agenda.
At any rate, Larson felt that this long home stand, combined with a current solid run of form, meant that Atlanta was in the Supporters Shield race. Roberson, who covers the team for AJC.com, agreed, with the caveat that Atlanta was a difficult team to project in 2017.
I, the contrarian I tend to be, disagreed and I threw a whole bunch of those fancy stats at them to back up my opinion. Specifically they have the worst PDO in MLS, were 12th in xGoals, 19th in xGoals against and 12th in TSR.
For those who read the above paragraph as Greek – the PDO number means they are, statistically speaking, the luckiest team in the league, score way more goals than their possession and shot placement would suggest, let in fewer goals than the same against them would suggest and they typically give up more shots than they get themselves (which has proven to be a very effective measure of success in global football, albeit less so in MLS).
Now, part of the reason Atlanta’s numbers are lower might be because they’ve played more road games than home games (12 to 8), but it’s still dangerous to ignore them completely.
There’s little to no guarantee that a home heavy schedule will automatically mean that you can just automatically say 6 x 3 = 18 GO! Just ask 2015 TFC about that…
But, anyway. I decided to break it down into the simplest projection I could think of to try and factor in the home schedule of Atlanta’s to see how much of a penitential threat the upstarts are to TFC’s Shield run.
Before I present the table please remember that I fully understand that a projection based on past performance in no way guarantees that the same form will continue. It simply means that IF teams continue to play the way that they have this season thus far we can reasonably project that they will finish with X amount of points.
This isn’t a complicated formula (H pts / H GP x 17) + (R pts / R GP x17) = Projected final points.
Here are the results:
1. Toronto FC 66
2. Chicago 62
3. NYCFC 59
4. Atlanta 59
5. NYRB 54
6. Columbus 49
7. Orlando 45
8. Montreal 44
9. Philly 39
10. New England 39
11. DCU 30
1. Dallas 61
2. SKC 54
3. Houston 53
4. Seattle 50
5. Vancouver 48
6. Portland 46
7. San Jose 43
8. RSL 38
9. Galaxy 37
10. Colorado 31
11. Minnesota 27
Ok, maybe not, but the projection backs up the eyeball test that TFC remains the clear favourite to capture the Shield and it also suggests, as most eyeball tests have also suggested, that Dallas is the class of the West.
Another thing that it suggests is that if you’re under the red line in July, it’s going to be a fight to pull above it by October. It’s happened, but far, far less likely than the hype-masters at league headquarters would have you believe. The standings at the 2/3 point are usually pretty close to how things will shake out at the end.
In terms of Atlanta, it does show a very healthy return on points, but ultimately they are probably too far back already in MLS, where 6 points might as well be 20. Of course it all resets to 0 once the final 12 are decided.
As for TFC…maybe don’t plan the parade, but start sketching out the Shield winning tifo design. Quietly. You wouldn’t want to jinx it, after all.
I’ve often told the story about how the first soccer game I remember watching in its entirety was the high water mark of the Canadian men’s national team – the infamous day in St. John’s when a bunch of hosers qualified for the World Cup for the first and only time.
I’m the anti-Drake. I started from the top and now I’m here.
However, that’s not the first soccer memories I have. Growing up in a family with British heritage (my grandmother was born in Bristol, England, and I have family in the UK to this day), I was exposed to all sorts of English culture from a young age. I eat beans on toast, watch Doctor Who (although I picked that habit up as an adult – On The Buses and Are You Being Served? were more of my childhood staples) and, most relevant to here, have always had an affinity to sports played in the UK. Had soccer been on television more often in the early 80s, I’m sure my young self would have watched it. I know that I was aware of it though and I spent a great deal of time learning about British sporting heroes. I was likely the only person in my elementary school who knew who Sebastian Coe was.
I also knew who Wayne Gretzky was, obviously, because try as I might my English heritage was never going to overshadow my Canadian upbringing. Thus, when I stumbled upon that game in St. John’s oh so many years ago it was like a light-bulb went off in my head. Finally I had found something that was totally and completely mine – something that combined all aspects of my evolving self-identity into a single thing that was new and exciting and that spoke to a Canadian experience that seemed modern and different from the experience that my parents had had growing up.
Although at the time I probably just thought it was cool. I wasn’t that deep as a kid.
At any rate, these thoughts came back to me today upon reflecting on an anniversary of significance for Italians and for the city that I now call home. It was 35 years ago today that Italy won the 1982 World Cup. At the time this had limited impact on my life. As I said, I was aware of soccer, but watching the World Cup final was not something I would have considered important at that time (maybe if England was playing, but they weren’t and Italy had no personal connection to me in any way). But, what I do remember was being at my Aunt’s house the next day when the Toronto Star came to the door. Upon looking at the front page, which featured 500,000 people celebrating the win on St. Clair West, Auntie Mona let out an audible gasp – paraphrasing, she said something along the lines of “I can’t believe there are that many people here that care.”
I’m sure a lot of people in Toronto said the same thing that day. It was the last time they said it though because that was the day that would forever betray the idea that soccer wasn’t important to a great deal of Canadians. It was the day that Pierre Trudeau’s image of a multicultural Canada that blended traditions and passions of both here and there into one unique Canadian experience became real.
Moving away from the sociopolitical, it was also a day that changed the sport in this country. If you look back on the soccer participation boom of the 1980s, it likely started with that image of 500,000 people that cared. That was also the day that other cultures started to slowly tear away from the British dominance in managing the game. Soccer had always been here, but it started its march to the mainstream that day.
There were also a lot of young kids of Italian decent that watched that game that day and then traveled down to St. Clair West to celebrate that ended up getting deeply involved in the game. But, they did so with the same (if slightly more Mediterranean) outlook as I had. They were of Italian decent, but they were also Canadian. They too brought a blended experience to their soccer passion. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually that lead to a soccer culture that is thriving now – a culture that instinctively understands that it’s possible to have duel (or more loyalties) and that there is something in the sport for everyone.
Obviously, the national team success is a different story (but not if you extend it to the women, where the North American mindset towards equality has allowed the New Country to surpass the Old when it comes to the women’s game – I guarantee there were people in that attached photo that also were also smiling in 2012 and 2016 when Canada claimed bronze), but on a participation level and a spectator level there absolutely has evolved a uniquely Canadian perspective on the Beautiful Game. A perspective shaped by Italy in 1982 and 2006 and Canada in 2012 and 2016 and by the arrival of a new domestic club culture starting in 2007 (and by hundreds of other moments from both here in Canada and around the world).
It doesn’t have the same length of history as you’ll find in other parts of the world, but the history it does have is every bit as real and reaffirming.
And it all started when 500,000 Canadians of Italian decent took to the streets and told us soccer matters.
Let’s not be subtle here. If the allegations are true – and it’s a little hard to come up with a scenario where they aren’t – then Cyle Larin was, well, a dumbass last night.
He blew .182 blood alcohol level. That’s not “had a glass of wine too many” drunk. That’s I can’t see straight, blind hammered. There is no way he possibly thought he could drive. There’s very little possibility he thought, period. This was a major, major lapse in judgement and no one should be making excuses for him.
In fairness – and this is the only bit of fairness I’ll allow him today – he hasn’t come out and made any excuses so far today. He, nor the club/league/CSA, haven't said anything at all. That’s not anything to celebrate, but the lack of excuse making is at least not rage inducing.
By all accounts, he was “cooperative” during the arrest. Thank God, for small miracles, I guess.
Look, we all make mistakes. And, we all deserve chances to make up for those mistakes. For two years, in my early 20s, I worked as a correctional officer for young offenders. The idea of redemption and rehabilitation is close to my heart. I will watch Cyle Larin’s next moves closely and, so long as this isn’t a pattern of behaviour, I will continue to wish him the best.
But the other side of redemption and rehabilitation is consequence. You can’t have the former without the latter and Cyle Larin will need to face consequences for these actions. He most certainly will legally – I suspect he’ll have to park that Mercedes for a while – but he should also face them professionally.
Earlier today, I ran a poll asking whether Larin should be excluded from Canada’s Gold Cup roster because of this. As of writing, close to 500 people had responded with 55 per cent agreeing that he should be left home.
The majority is right. This is a serious incident and the CSA needs to react in a serious way. To fail to do so is to value the potential of soccer success over doing the ethically responsible thing.
One mistake should not destroy a career. Larin should, and absolutely will, get lots of opportunity to redeem himself. We all should hope he does. But, not before he is appropriately punished.
Leaving him off the Gold Cup roster is a perfectly appropriate punishment.
Full press release of Alphonso Davies citizenship announcement below:
Canada Soccer welcomed Alphonso Davies as a new Canadian after the young footballer took his Oath of Citizenship at his Canadian Citizenship Ceremony.
“I am overwhelmed and I am glad I can make my parents proud by becoming a Canadian citizen,” said Alphonso Davies. “It has been a long journey becoming a Canadian citizen.”
The 16-year old midfielder, who has been part of Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program since 2014, can now officially accept his first call up to the National Team Program ahead of a Men’s International Friendly match in Montréal.
“We are very proud to welcome Alphonso Davies into our Men’s National Team Program as a full Canadian citizen,” said Steve Reed, President of Canada Soccer. “Coming up through Canada Soccer’s youth system, he has worked hard to achieve his success and he will be a big part of our future.”
Davies departs for Montréal where he will join an extended Men’s National Team roster training in Laval ahead of the 13 June 2017 Men’s International Friendly. He will look to impress the coaching staff with hopes of making the final squad for the match at Stade Saputo: from the full group of 28 players, Head Coach Octavio Zambrano will reduce the number of players on Friday 9 June after a Thursday intra-squad match.
“I am really excited to be called into Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team,” Davies said. “Canada Soccer worked extremely hard to get me where I am right now and I am very grateful. I am really glad they took their time and put the effort in me in helping me get my citizenship.”
The international match is part of a three-match Summer of Soccer Series in Canada which includes a pair of Women's International Matches in Winnipeg and Toronto. The Women's National Team has matches against Costa Rica on 8 and 11 June ahead of the Men's National Team's return to Montréal on 13 June. All three matches will be broadcast live on TSN.
Davies has been a part of Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program since 2014 when he was just 13 years old. He is currently a professional player with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. After making his pro debut at age 15, he became the youngest goal scorer in the history of the Canadian Championship at age 16 on 23 May 2017.
Before moving to Vancouver in 2015, Davies grew up in Edmonton, Alberta where he played for Edmonton Inter, Edmonton Strikers, FC Edmonton Academy, and St. Nicholas Soccer Academy. He was just five years old when he arrived in Canada, living briefly in Windsor, Ontario before moving out west to Edmonton.
Advocates for the league system that is commonly referred to as Pro/Rel in this part of the world can be…persistent in their advocating for the system.
At least the more vocal ones, anyway. There’s no need to re-hash the names here. If you’ve spend any time online in North American soccer communities you know who we are talking about.
Ironically, that insistence that EVERYONE talk about Pro/Rel ALWAYS means that no rational conversations about whether North America should move towards such a system ever happen. Instead what happens is that someone says ‘good game by the Crew last night, eh?’ and [redacted] replies ‘WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM??? #ProRel4USA.’
Then it gets worse.
So, last week’s revelation that The CanPL will launch with a plan to move towards a system of promotion and relegation was met with, well, fear by those of us that live in online communities that talk about soccer. The fear wasn’t related to the actual system – most of us would love to have an intellectual discussion about whether this is a good idea – but rather about how the discussion would play itself out.
It will do no one any good to set up in two separate pro and con camps that do nothing but yell at each other.
So far, so good. Perhaps it’s Canadians’ desire to be polite and morally superior to Americans (which isn’t that polite, but I’ll save that conversation for another type of article) that is reigning in the debate thus far, but it’s been fairly respectful.
Let’s keep it that way – for the benefit of both the CanPL and (morally superior alert) our American friends who might benefit from having folks less…entrenched…in their positions debate the merits and risks.
So, is this a good idea? Should CanPL launch with a plan to do something that the USA didn’t dare (or want) to do just two decades ago?
Yes. Yes we should. With a caveat.
That caveat is found in a single word in the question – plan.
A plan doesn’t mean a guarantee and it certainly doesn’t mean that it literally should launch with pro/rel in place (I think all but the clinically insane would agree with that – I mean where exactly would the clubs be relegated to?).
A plan simply means that you’re putting it on the table immediately and acknowledging that in an ideal world it would be great to get to the point where it could happen. That’s the biggest mistake MLS made. They never planned for the possibility of relegation (promotion they are cool with. Just write a cheque). Without that plan in place from the start it becomes exceptionally difficult to implement. It just does, no matter how many times you write the #ProRel4USA hashtag.
As for why it is a good idea – why it is ideal to work towards – well, here is where you have to ignore the hyperbole and vitriol of [redacted] and look at the underlying arguments in favour of pro/rel. Simply put, they are that by allowing smaller clubs to aspire to something greater you can then encourage them to invest more in the game in the hope that they might one day find glory at the highest level of the game. That, in turn, will force them to do everything just a little bit better, which, in turn, means that even if their dream comes up short the whole system benefits.
It’s a kind of trickle *up* economics theory. Like any theory it’s not likely work out perfectly in execution, but in the context of Canadian soccer – and Canada in general -- it does actually make some sense.
See, we have 100 years of history to point to that illustrates that Canadian clubs (of the youth verity, since we don’t have a lot of other types) don’t aspire beyond their own backyards. They just don’t. They’re comfortable. And, more to the point, there’s nothing to aspire to. The thinking then goes that if you provide these clubs with something to aspire to then maybe they’ll start to think bigger.
Here’s the thing though—history suggests that they’ll need to be shamed into thinking bigger. You start a typical North American league tomorrow and nothing changes at that level. Nothing. I almost guarantee it. But, if you start a league tomorrow that is structured in such a way that provides an opportunity – a challenge, really – to these clubs and, well…even the less ambitious are going to understand the need to, well, get off their ass.
Get off their ass and improve infrastructure. Get off their ass and improve coaching. Get off their ass and let someone else with more ambition take over.
The other thing this plan will provide is an opportunity for cities in Canada that aren’t currently in the CFL to aspire to having pro teams. This is a fundamental difference between Canada and the US. In the US there are probably a hundred cities that could, in theory, have a pro team in the North American franchise model. In Canada there are three – and six more if it’s the CFL or hockey (grudgingly accepted by their American overlords).
Kitchener-Waterloo isn’t among that nine, yet it’s an important city in this country. London. Windsor. Kingston. Halifax. St. John’s. Kelowna. Victoria. Saskatoon…
I could go on.
A pro/rel plan from the start will plant the seed in those type of communities that maybe it’s not crazy to dream of professional sport in their communities – even if it’s in the second tier. Even if they understand that they’ll probably never be at the very top.
What do we love about European pyramid? That it’s inclusive and that it provides everyone with a chance to find their level. What don’t we like about the American model? That traps you at a level and shuts out some from being a part of any level.
Will pro/rel guarantee a magically new world for Canadian soccer? No. Would a franchise model doom the sport forever? Also, no. But, if given the chance to plan for an ideal scenario from the get-go then why wouldn’t you do just that?
It appears that there will not be a Canadian quota in the CanPL.
Paul Beirne indicated as much in a post on the Voyageurs discussion board. However, he followed it up by stressing that the league would still be vastly comprised of Canadian players. That would be accomplished by putting a restriction on the amount of foreign players permitted, rather than by putting a specific number on Canadian roster spots.
The information written by Beirne, corresponds with what CSN has been told by various people over the past two years or so.
From the beginning, CSN has been told that there was a resistance to requiring X amount of Canadians per team.
That opinion is informed by the CFL owners, who has experience with the "non-import" rule in the CFL. They feel that the rule artificially inflates the salary of Canadians and puts a financial strain on their ability to build the best rosters possible. TFC argued the same thing back in 2008, after having to vastly overpay for Canadians in year one.
Although restricting "imports" creates the same end result as requiring x amount of Canadians, it isn’t thought to have the same impact on salaries.
However, as Beirne wrote, it's also always been stressed that there is no way this league isn't going to be made up of a majority of Canadian players. The economics of the league will dictate it.
A better question to ask is whether there will be anything put in place to ensure the percentage of Canadian playing minutes is protected -- i.e a starters quota like we saw in the old NASL or in the Voyageurs Cup now.
Unfortunately, the idea of a starters’ quota has also been resisted from what CSN has been told. The reason is the same as why a Canadian roster spot requirement is resisted – fear of salary inflation. If, say, three Canadians are required to start every game then that puts a premium on Canadian roster spots as it’s likely that the club with the best Canadians is going to be at a competitive advantage.
The CanPL Bits and Bites is an occasional article rounding up the latest Canadian Premier League News.
The biggest news dump on the CanPL in sometime came earlier this week when Paul Beirne appeared on SoccerToday with myself and Kevin Laramee. We wil unpack some of the biggest pieces of that in a moment, but if you haven't listened yet do so now. The interview starts at 30 min. I'm mostly talking about Pablo Zabaleta for the first 30 minutes.
Let's look deeper at the three biggest things to come out of that interview:
1 - A team in French Canada was promised
This shouldn't need to be explained, but in case you're new or still holding a Reform Party membership card from 1993, but you simply cannot have a national league in Canada in the year 2017 that ignores one of the major regions of the country. I'll avoid the politics of this (for the most part), but if you don't launch with a team in French Canada -- and preferably in Quebec proper -- you are alienating a significant part of the country and you'll be fighting uphill to gain the respect of that part of the country for many years to come, even if you do eventually get a team in there.
So, I've been long beating the drum on this. The CPL needs to also be the PLC.
Yet, we've long struggled to find evidence of interest in the league in Quebec (or even French Canada if you extend that to include Acadia; no Moncton group seems to be close). Ottawa might work in a pinch, but even there the Fury seem to be dragging their feet. Not only have the Impact been indifferent to the whole thing, it's been suggested that they might actually be hostile to it.
So Quebec looked like a long-shot. Until Paul answered my question.
"Yes there will be a team in Quebec, multiple maybe."
That got me to dig around yesterday. What I learned isn't particularly illuminating, but it was suggested to me that there are two groups that have made what was described to me as "preliminary" inquiries.
One group was, as expected, out of Quebec City. No one could say for sure who might be behind such a bid, but a good guess might be the money people behind the Laval Rouge et Or. Although not really soccer guys they have deep roots in Canadian (gridiron) football. If you're not familuar with the Rouge et Or story have a read. The thinking here is that they might be motivated to invest in soccer because of the possibility that it would 1) put them in good standing with CFL owners, thus making the possibility of bringing a CFL team to Quebec City more of a possibility and 2) it would help get PEPS stadium further expanded, also with CFL in mind.
Soccer fans may not want to celebrate such gridiron ambitions, but sometimes ambition makes for strange bedfellows. Laval is deep pocketed and the success of the Rouge et Or is truly remarkable. Soccer could do worse, so long as he was interested in seeing soccer succeed.
The second group was said to be the local ownership of the former Trois-Rivières Attack. The Attack were a reserve team of the Montreal Impact for several years. The Impact would not be involved.
2. Smaller cities than expected
When most of us think about the possibility of a Canadian league we tend to only consider the largest markets -- markets that we think of as "major league" (in a Canadian context). Basically markets that have NHL and/or CFL teams.
Paul suggested that markets as small as 200,000 could be targeted as potential sites for teams. Further to that he also suggested that creating local derbies was something that he wanted to see happen. That's significant in that it puts many cities on the list that we might currently look at as being "suburban" or part of another, larger centre.
For the sake of playing fantasy franchise let's look at the current markets that are over the magic 200,000 figure right now. Using Canadian census data there are currently 20 centres that are considered Census Metropolitan Areas (which is a fancy way to say "markets") with more than 200,000 people living in them.
Toronto (including Mississauga and Brampton) 5,928,0405; Montreal (Laval) 3,934,078; Vancouver (Surrey) 2,463,431; Calgary 1,392,609; Ottawa–Gatineau 1,254,919; Edmonton 1,321,426; Quebec City (Lévis) 800,296; Winnipeg 778,489; Hamilton (Burlington) 747,545; Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 523,894; London 494,069; St. Catharines - Niagara (Niagara Falls, Welland) 406,074; Halifax 403,390; Oshawa (Whitby, Clarington) 379,848; Victoria (Saanich) 367,770; Windsor (Lakeshore) 329,144; Saskatoon 295,095; Regina 236,481; Sherbrooke (Magog)212,105; St. John's (Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Paradise) 205,955.
There are an additional 21 CMAs that are between 100,000 and 200,000, most of which are trending up in population as Canada gets increasingly more urban.
A couple things jump out about that. First, when you consider where top flight teams are in the rest of the world there is nothing inherently preventing Canada from finding enough markets. Particularly when considering an initial 10 or so teams. There are 10 markets with a half million or more people on that list, and London is just a shade away from making it 11.
That said, Canadians will need to adjust their thinking of what a professional market is away from a North American mindset into one that more closely resembles the rest of the world. Are we ready to see, say, Oshawa as a separate market to Toronto? It will be a challenge.
There is, however, an existing league that we do that in -- The Canadian Hockey League. The CHL is amateur in name only. It's highly successful. And it's probably a closer model to what a successful CanPL will look like than the CFL is.
3. We kinda, sorta know the league business structure
Not that it was shocking, but Paul confirmed that there will be a form of salary control in place. As stated, that there will be a cap (or budget, or whatever you want to call it) shouldn't surprise anyone. That's the North American way. It's also the only way that most of the potential owners would have agreed to become a part of the launch.
It shouldn't necessarily be seen as a bad thing that no one is looking to lose money forever in this league.
Reading between the lines of what Paul said -- and being careful not to put words in his mouth, the following is me reporting from other sources -- it's increasingly clear that the CanPL will launch in a way that very closely looks like MLS in its early years. The naive, purist reading this might not like this, but the reality is that some form of...let's call it collective...ownership is vital to getting through the early years.
What I've previously reported and have confirmed of late is that a major component of the CanPL business model will be equal shares (I'm told they will cost about $1.5 million for initial investors) in a marketing arm that will be similar in scope and purpose as SUM is to MLS. There's a good possibility that Don Garber's recent comments about opening a Canadian office of MLS is directly related to this part of the plan.
Will CanPL look exactly like MLS single entity? I doubt it. It will have the advantage of having 20 years of history to learn from. CanPL owners will know what did and didn't work in MLS 1.0 and will probably be a bit less centrally controlled than MLS was back in the early days.
Just not as fully independent as some might like.
Lastly, Paul suggested that we will know much more about the league in the next 90 days or so.
That might be the most exciting thing of all.
By now everyone (or at least everyone that cares to visit pages like this one) knows the dream of the Canadian Premier League is a reality.
It was 1:33pm ET on May 7, 2017 when I first saw the news I’d been waiting to see since I first reported it more than three years ago. I was sitting on the Ossington bus, just north of Queen Street W. Two things make that spot a bit amusing to be where it was that I was when the news became official. First off, it’s on the very bus that I have taken to get to TFC and Canada games for years. I happened to be going to a rugby game, but the symbolism of the fact that the bus almost always represents the beginning of a soccer journey for me wasn’t lost in the moment.
It’s also exactly where Canada’s largest hospital and residential treatment centre for mental health is located. I don’t think I need to explain to you how that fits in to covering Canadian soccer and the birth of this league*.
(* Allow me some levity, while understanding that I would never really compare mental illness with cheering for or covering Canadian soccer, but the story did drive me a bit batty over the three and a half years that I chased it.).
My reaction? I started laughing hysterically. Then smiling. Then Tweeting. Then planning how I could get a job in the league. Then tearing up. Then laughing again.
It went like that for a while.
To be perfectly clear the birth of this league isn’t about me, it’s about what it might mean to the sport. However, there are thousands of personal stories and reactions that did matter at that moment. See, the fight for this league was always about the will of people to out care and out believe the cynicism that was overwhelming at times.
This is the story of influential people like Victor Montagliani, who almost single handily killed the Sack the CSA movement with his drive and determination to provide the type of leadership the CSA has lacked for generations.
It’s the story of activists and roll-up-the-sleeves-and-get-it-done people like Dino Rossi who tirelessly worked to launch League1 Ontario and show-us-don’t-tell-us that crazy dreams can work if you just get out and do it.
It’s the story of non-soccer people like Scott Mitchell that bought in early and sold the idea to those who can make it happen
It’s the story of rich dudes like Bob Young that are putting more than hope into the project.
It’s the story of people like Anthony Totera who passionately sold the idea to any and all that would listen.
And, it’s the story of fans that bought in and spread the word to other fans. No league, anywhere, matters without that.
I’m proud of my small role – I’ll never break a bigger story in my life – and I’m more than content knowing that there are many out there that doubted my reporting that will still find a way to spin this so that I come out wrong. I’m just a blogger, after all (my two degrees and five years of previous newspaper experience be damned).
All that matters is that the league is going to happen. We – all of us – made the impossible happen. Celebrate it. Enjoy the moment for a couple more days then get back to work.
There’s still a great deal to do to convince those that just heard of this wacky idea on Saturday. There’s still a lot of doubters to be convinced or to overcome.
And there’s still half the population to do right by. The fight for the Canadian Women’s Premier League started at 1:34 ET on Saturday.
Keep fighting; keep caring; keep supporting local soccer.
Days like Saturday are our reward for fighting the good fight. There will be more like it soon enough.
Recently John Molinaro wrote a wonderful oral history of TFC. Go read it it. I'll wait.
However, the article focused a lot on the more positive parts of the TFC experience. That's understandable as it was an oral history and no one involved with the club would want to focus on the less...fun moments in the club's history. Things that I like to call WTF TFC Moments. So this week's Big List will focus on the Top 10 WTF TFC moments of all-time.
10 - One wild night at Club Escobar, 2012
There is no debate about what TFC's worst season was. It was 2012. That was the bottom, the year even the diehards were considering taking up softball as a new hobby. And, the lowest point of the lowest season of all came in the early morning hours of June 18 in Houston when Miguel Aceval, Luis Silva and the infamous Nick Soolsma were arrested for public intoxication after an altercation broke out between the players and the locals. Amusingly, Julian de Guzman bailed them out of jail, in what might have been the DPs biggest contribution to the team in many fan's minds. What is a well known secret, but that has never been reported, is that the only reason this got reported in Toronto is because Soolsma's Toronto girlfriend got angry at him for being at the club and started calling Toronto reporters to rat him out. I wish I was kidding. Shakespeare would have found TFC's 2012 season too tragic to write about.
9 - UFC 167 - Winter v Mariner, 2011-2012
This one was more of a slow burn, but the front office civil war between Aron Winter and Paul Mariner -- the latter hired to assist the former understand MLS -- that raged on for the better part of 18 months basically killed three seasons of TFC. The fact MLSE hired two guys that were never going to get along was a reflection of how little they still knew about soccer four years into the club, and the lack of decisive decision making at the club. Mariner eventually "won" the battle, but not before alienating half the fan base and dooming himself moving forward. In the end, everything had to be blown up again and it would be another two years before they could even see the corner, let alone turn it.
8 - Jermain Defoe's boo-boo, 2014
It only took about three months for the Bloody Big Deal to become a Bloody Big Joke. Jermain Defoe got hurt, then got sullen, then disappeared back to the UK for an extended period of time while the fans just got disenchanted. Meanwhile, the club was spinning more than a bathing suit model with two pounds to lose. What was supposed to be a new hope ended up with fans throwing up their hands and assuming that TFC was forever doomed. The whole thing was epitomized when Defore missed a penalty in his first game back.
7 - Alan Gordon trying to kill the training staff, 2011
This one wasn't widely reported, but if you've ever wondered why Gordon was traded so soon after he arrived...well. He was upset with how his injury was being treated and ended up trying to strangle the training staff. He wasn't a TFC player a week later. Beyond the brawl (which happens on all teams from time to time) the story perfectly illustrates one of TFC;s biggest problems back then -- they had a terrible reputation with players. No one wanted to play here and not just because the team was struggling. They treated players like pawns and it bit them in the ass time after time after time after...
6 - Canadians vs Preki, 2010
People forget that 2010 started pretty well. Preki had the team in a playoff spot and the 2009 final game choke job was forgotten. Then, the players decided they didn't like their curfew. I'll never forget getting a phone call from a source when I was leaving a media even at BMO Field. His message was simple -- the players won't play for Preki. The source told me that the players had drawn a line in the sand to upper management. It was suggested to me that the senior Canadian players on the roster were the ones leading the charge. The players won (and Mo Johnston went with him) and TFC got blown up once again.
5 - Joao Plata escapes in the middle of the night, 2012
This one wasn't entirely the club's fault. Plata deserves far more criticism for his role then he gets -- he quite literally packed up his stuff and flew home without telling anyone at TFC. The reason behind his escape was that Paul Mariner refused to play him and was not particularly gentle about his reasoning (which in hindsight was flawed). Fans weren't in the mood to give TFC any break back then, and the club has an odd tendency to never be upfront with anything, so many fans still don't realize that, for once, they probably weren't the bad guys. But, perception is reality...so...
4 - The Gambians, 2009
Let's just say there has always been something not quite right about the signing of The Gambians. They did get a good photo out of it though.
3 - DeRo's Scottish vacation, 2011
What a damn mess. DeRo, unhappy with his contract, decides to go to Celtic to train. Photos emerge of DeRo training with Celtic. TFC denies that DeRo is training with Celtic, while simultaneously saying that if he was training with Celtic he shouldn't be because he doesn't have an ITC. Fans throw arms in air and assume TFC screwed something up somewhere. Club looks dumb. DeRo looks petulant. The relationship between the hometown hero and club soured even further.
2 - SHOW ME THE MONEY, 2010
Oh, you know. Arguably the best player to ever come out of Toronto (most creative and exciting, anyway) who was brought back home to great fanfare a year earlier scores a goal and then decides to make everything about his contract situation by pretending to sign a cheque while staring at the directors box. Seconds after San Jose scores the goal that officially eliminates TFC from the playoffs. See above for the rest of the story.
1 - Mo Johnston's management style
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