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Found 10 results

  1. Steak vs Sizzle: The CanPL at a crossroad

    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.
  2. 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. View full record
  3. No Eurosnobs allowed

    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.”
  4. No Eurosnobs allowed

    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.” View full record
  5. The CanPL fights back

    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.
  6. The CanPL fights back

    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. View full record
  7. What to do about Ottawa

    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… View full record
  8. What to do about Ottawa

    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…
  9. Ottawa vs. Everybody

    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…
  10. Ottawa vs. Everybody

    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… View full record
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