Talk about burying the lead.
Toronto FC fans got a surprise yesterday and not one that they would have been looking forward to. That Champions League spot that many were looking forward to is not just delayed until next February -- it's been taken away completely. The news was almost hidden in a release announcing the extension of the Canadian Championship to include the winner of the PLSQ and League1 Ontario.
So, to re-cap, the CSA got one thing right and one thing very wrong.
Let's start with the wrong. Appreciating the fact that a lot of people in this country love it when Toronto gets screwed, there is no denying that they did, in fact, get screwed here. Yes, there was a bit of an issue to fix -- CONCACAF's change in format made it a long wait for the qualifying team -- but the CSA chose quite possibly the least sporting solution available to them. TFC won the Voyageurs Cup on the field and the CONCACAF spot that went with it should have stayed with them. A year where the Cup did not have a CCL spot would not have been the end of the world. In fact, it may have given more opportunity to young Canadians to play in the competition as the teams would have very likely rotated (as an aside, the CSA also added a Canadian quota for starters this year -- each team will need to start three Canucks each game.
The CSA did provide a slight advantage by allowing TFC to host the one game playoff. Obviously, if TFC wins the 2017 Voyageurs Cup they do not need to play itself for the berth.
Unfair or not, it's done now and the Reds will need to get down to the business of repeating as champions if the CCL is to make a long awaited return to T.O.
For the D3 level teams the long wait to get a shot at the Canadian Championship is almost over. The specific format of the 2018 Cup has not been released yet (hopefully because they are waiting to add a few more teams in a, say, new league...), but whatever it is it will include at least two D3 teams. It won't include the Canadian PDL teams. The likely reason? The CSA wants those teams to play in Canadian leagues and this might be the incentive to get them to make that choice on their own.
In the words of the great modern poet that is Demi Lovato:
So how did you get here under my skin?
I swore that I'd never let you back in
Should've known better than trying to let you go
'Cause here we go go go go again
After nearly a year of...let's call it re-charging...CSN is back with a slightly new mandate and hopefully a revitalized zest for writing about the always frustrating but rarely dull world of Canadian soccer. We would have been back sooner, but we had a lot of work to accomplish first. Most importantly, we needed to change the look of the site and to get rid of a truly staggering amount of spam that had overwhelmed us and that played a significant role in creating the burn-out that necessitated that above mentioned re-charging.
The comments section, once the best check of my ego I could have ever hoped for, but yet an important part of making CSN a community rather than just a news site, became the bane of my existence. Unless you were in the market for Russian pharmaceuticals there was no point checking the comments. Without the understanding that people are reading it becomes difficult to motivate yourself to take time out of your schedule to do that hard work of writing -- especially when you spend a lot of time commenting in audio form as the host of SoccerToday.
Speaking personally, the burn out was also just a product of doing it for so long. You feel that you are repeating yourself after a while. But, eventually you start to miss it and you start to feel that you need to get your voice back out there in a consistent way.
A lot remains the same about Canadian soccer, but a lot has changed as well. Part of CSN's (slightly) new mandate will be to address those changes -- specifically the Canadian Premier League project that is (frustratingly still) on the horizon. Additionally, D3 level leagues like League1 Ontario, the PLSQ and the new BC initiative are becoming more and more important in the system and reporting on them will become a big focus of CSN 2.0.
That's not to say we won't still talk about MLS and the three Canadian teams. There was a time when I felt that maybe we should step away from that kind of coverage (and I still think we should focus a bit less on it compared to the topics outlined above), but when nearly 100,000 people attend the Eastern Conference Final in Canada and a million more watch it on TV it's hard to say that it shouldn't be covered.
So, it will be. As will the national teams and issues that impact Canadian soccer at all levels, regardless of where it originates from.
It's going to be a lot of work. But, it's work I'm excited to get back to after a little time away.
In the words of retired Canadian soccer poet Ben Knight...