We now know the six Canadian stadiums and cities that are biding to host games in the 2026 World Cup.
Toronto’s BMO Field
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium
Vancouver’s BC Place
Edmonton’s Olympic Stadium
Regina’s Mosaic Stadium
Ottawa’s TD Place
There’s a not a lot of surprise on the list. Calgary declined to pursue the bid further, which may be bad news for their Canadian Premier League bid (as getting a stadium built is key to it and failing to bid now suggests that they are not yet sure if it’s going to happen).
With Canada set to get six games in total there is a certain logic to suggest that each city is likely to get a single game. Although the caveat to that is that Olympic Stadium will need serious work to be World Cup ready.
Another issue is that only one stadium – It’s almost certain that all of the five stadiums will need to put in temporary grass.
Of course none of this will matter if Morocco wins the bid.
It’s a bad day to be a soccer fan in Winnipeg or Hamilton. Ironically, the first two cities to commit to being part of the Canadian Premier League were the two notable cities not included on the list of cities Canada has approached to apply to be a host city in the 2026 World Cup.
Obviously, this will be a moot point if Morocco somehow takes the bid away from the hugely favourite United North America bid, but few think that will happen. So, it’s basically the end of any dream that either city will ever host a World Cup.
It’s a double blow for Hamilton in that they were also left off the Women’s World Cup rotation in 2015. It’s a shame because the city was a wonderful host to the Pan Am tournament and a women’s pre-tournament friendly between England and Canada.
It’s a bit baffling, actually. Tim Horton’s Field is only 24,000, sure, but it can be expanded to 40,000 (and possibly even more for a major event like a World Cup). Since it seems unlikely that the CSA is springing this on these cities blindly, it could be that the City of Hamilton turned down the chance to bid. In fact, that's the noise that many are suggesting -- that Hamilton turned down the chance to bid. That seems short-sighted, but I’m not a Hamilton rate payer.
Much of what was written about Hamilton can be extended to Winnipeg. Two new stadiums in cities that don’t traditionally get looked at to host major events….surprising, to say the least. And, once again, it appears that Winnipeg came to the conclusion on their own.
There weren’t a lot of shocks among the cities included. Both Toronto and Montreal were invited to apply with two stadiums – BMO Field/Stade Saputo and The Stadium Formally Known as SkyDome/Olympic Stadium – and the rest of the cities – Ottawa, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver are basically the default cities that pop up in these conversations.
The two biggest questions among the included cities might be Montreal and Calgary. The Big O is an old 43 years now. It’s hard to imagine it not being held together by duct tape and empty bottles of Old Vienna by 2026. Saputo is the smallest of the stadiums included. It would take a major renovation to get up to the required size (although with the Habs having never hosted an outdoor NHL game that might be of interest to the city).
Calgary has no legitimate option other than to build something new. McMahon Stadium is already 57 years old and it’s never been called anything other than functional, even by its fans. It seems likely that Calgary has been included to add further support to an ongoing effort to completely overhaul the city’s sports infrastructure. Calgary wants to build a new hockey rink, multipurpose stadium and host the 2026 Winter Olympics. Hosting a couple extra World Cup games a few months after the big party would be the icing on that very expensive cake.
Mexico only put three cities forward, so you’d imagine they plan an even split of games. That’s not in Canada’s nature – the games here will be split equally between the east and the west.
Julian de Guzman is getting a head coaching position a little earlier than most people would have thought. Also, earlier than the Ottawa Fury probably wanted, as it comes with the announcement today that Paul Dalglish has resigned from the position, effectively immediately. He had informed the club of his intention to leave the Fury at the end of 2017, but both sides agreed that it was best to leave immediately.
Dalglish had a 14W-16D-22L record in his season and a half in charge of the Fury. His was never a comfortable fit, taking charge after the hugely popular and successful Marc dos Santos. Making things even more difficult was that the Fury dumped a great deal of salary just before Dalglish took over, effectively stripping a Championship team to its bare bones.
Still, Fury fans never warmed to Dalglish. Stylistically, he preferred a direct brand of the game, trying to utilize longer balls directed towards tall target men. The tactics were considered boring by many Fury fans, and statistically provided mediocre results. The Fury scored just 59 goals in the 52 games Dalglish was in charge.
For his part Dalglish had positive words on his exit:
"I will always be grateful to OSEG, the Fury, my staff and players for the experience my family and I have enjoyed here in Ottawa," said Dalglish. "I also want to thank the fans for their continued support of this great club. I wish nothing but the best for Fury FC and hope fans get to enjoy playoff soccer in Ottawa this fall," he said.
It’s been speculated by many that he will take the head coaching position at the new Austin club, which will begin USL play in 2018. Dalglish played professionally in Texas and maintains roots in the region.
It’s a quick turnaround from player to coach for de Guzman, who retired just last year. In fact, he played a testimonial with the Fury last month. However, he’s been working on his coaching qualifications over the past couple years and has experience working with younger players at the national team level. During the last few years of his career, de Guzman effectively was a player-coach and was widely seen as having a future patrolling the sidelines.
Julian has proven that he will be a strong coach in this game," said Fury President John Pugh. "He has the attention and respect of the players and he has our full support."
De Guman will make his managerial debut Aug 16 against Orlando B.
Look at the photo above. That’s Estadio Merkatondoa, home of Club Deportivo Izarra of the Segunda División B. That’s the third tier of Spanish football.
Located in the Basque region of Spain you can never accuse it of not being beautiful. It’s incredibly charming, actually. I’d love to play in that stadium.
It would be appropriate for me to play in that stadium, as there are only 3,500 seats. It’s in every way a small, community-like stadium, like you find everywhere.
In this particular case it also plays host to a third tier professional team. The third tier professional team that Samuel Piette most recently played for.
Not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course. The third tier of Spanish professional soccer is about 60 times better than the level than likely everyone reading this played at. Well, unless someone from the Montreal Impact is reading.
The Impact, of course, represent Piette’s new team, having inked him to a deal earlier this week. It was the worst kept secret in MLS for a couple days as Piette’s 6,000 relatives in the Montreal area were telling anyone that wanted to listen.
Montreal fans badly wanted this signing to happen. The link started just after Piette played for the national team in Montreal in early June and intensified as the summer grew as long as the Impact playoff hopes.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. What I’m about to write in no way should be interpreted as me wishing Piette failure. Nor, is it meant to suggest that I don’t think Piette has talent. I, like many, am impressed with the player’s improvement over the last year or so and think a move to MLS is very good for his career.
However, I do have concerns.
As suggested off the top, Piette was not playing at MLS level before the move. The third tier of Spanish soccer is, despite the screaming of MLS haters, not at the same level of the Montreal Impact. Thus, why I’m happy for Piette. He’s making a move up. Awesome for him and awesome for the Canadian national team.
But…this is not a normal signing in that if Piette wasn’t a Montreal native it would have either flown under the radar or actually been criticised. If I was being cynical, I’d suggest that the Impact are caving to fan pressure to sign the local kid to distract from what is turning out to be a terrible season.
Kind of like when TFC signed Julian de Guzman all those years ago. Now, JDG was playing at a higher level than MLS at the time, so it’s not a perfect comparison, but the element of local kid comes home to play for struggling team is the same.
As is the fact that Piette isn’t a goal scorer. Many, many Impact fans are sophisticated enough to appreciate the subtleness of a destroyer’s game – comparing him to Donadel, as the Impact have, will help that. But, fans will always fan and some are going to want offensive production from a signing that got as much attention as Piette did.
It’s worth a reminder that Piette is just 22. He’s improved, but he’s still going to need to earn his time at MLS. Hopefully, the Impact made this signing with his best interests in mind and they have a plan to bring him up to speed.
Even more hopefully, he is already ready to make an immediate (sorry) impact for the Impact.
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?