When the news was finally confirmed it was no longer news. More than two years after CSN first reported that Canada was working towards its own league, current CSA president Victor Montagliani out right confirmed it on Red Card Radio last week.
"The league is a go," was how he simply put it.
Two days ago, the Halifax regional council released a document that detailed plans for the creation of said new Canadian league.
August 2018 was listed as the start date, with a May 2017 announcement suggested.
As someone who was accused of making all this up two years ago allow me this single indulgence:
I TOLD YOU SO
Alright, now that that's out of the way let's instead focus on just how important this confirmation is. Simply put, it is the single most important accomplishment of the CSA in 31 years -- bigger than bringing WWC 2015 here, bigger than the 2007 U20 World Cup and much bigger than helping get MLS established in the nation. Make no mistake, all of those things mattered. There is no CanPL without them. They laid the groundwork that created an environment that allowed the CSA to even dare to dream of something so outlandish as starting our own league.
When Canada landed the 2007 U20s -- around the time Christine Sinclair was introducing herself to the nation at the also important 2002 women's U19 event -- the idea of a national league was dead in the water. The CSL had failed and with it any chance of ever having top flight soccer in this country was seemingly buried with it. Even the idea of having a single MLS team seemed far-fetched (partly because no one was betting on MLS lasting long-term either).
But, a new generation of Canadians was starting to enter their peak spending years and the older generation -- the generation that thinks soccer is a commie sport, mostly -- was starting to lose its grip on power. Suddenly, the Gen Xers and the generation that we now call millennials were to be paid attention to and that generation didn't have the same hang ups about soccer that their parents and grandparents did. They grew up playing the sport in the boom years of the 1980s and '90s and then later in their living rooms in video game form (make no mistake. EA Sports has played a vital role in popularizing soccer in North America).
Those young(er) fans packed bars, pubs and cafes every two years to watch the World Cup and Euros. Still, the older generation said that they would never watch the game outside of those big tournaments. It's just a party, something to do while waiting for the NHL season to start again, the grumpy boomers said.
Except those same fans were starting to buy Juve, Manchester United and Real Madrid strips and show up at all hours of the day to watch European games.
Yeah, but they won't support teams from here, grunted the talk radio shock jock.
Then BMO Field opened and fans made Toronto FC the hottest ticket in town. Vancouver then Montreal followed and years later nearly 100,000 watched the Impact and TFC play for the Eastern Conference championship over a wild two legged tie that will probably be referenced by an 18 year old rookie in 2022 as being the reason he or she decided to become a professional soccer player.
Yet, the old voices remain and are now telling us that the CanPL can never succeed. This is despite soccer proving the doubters wrong at every step of the way over the past 25 years.
It's time to shout them down. The burden of proof no longer lies on the side of the soccer-lover. No, it's the soccer-doubter that needs to show their work. I suspect their work would include references to the NASL, New York Cosmos and Pele before it drifted off into a 40 minute rant about how music was better when Meat Loaf was on top of the charts.
The sport has fans -- huge fans -- in every corner of the country. Sure, many of those fans support one of the three MLS teams (or another level team), but more than enough either don't live near a MLS/NASL/USL team or are open to supporting both their current team and a CanPL side.
This isn't 1992 and it sure as hell isn't 1984. There are people in Calgary, Winnipeg, Halifax and more than have seen the Southsiders, UM02, Red Patch Boys or (insert your supporters group here) and want the same thing for themselves. The new CanPL teams will find their fans and the teams have enough money behind them to allow the initial fan base to grow to a point that no one will ever fear for the long-term health of the league again.
One of the underappreciated goals of the CanPL is to bring the game to more fan's back-yards. We focus on player, coach and referee development -- and clearly that is very important -- but the reality is that spreading the sport to every part of the country is probably the single most important thing the CanPL will do. Putting pro soccer in smaller markets is a goal in of itself, but it's not like having those pockets of passion isn't without a player development angle too. Just look at the amount of young American players that currently talk about how important going to MLS games was to developing their love of the game. That will hapen with the CanPL too (and already is happening with the three MLS teams).
The CanPL is going to happen.
And, It's going to succeed. It's time to embrace what is possible and stop looking for what might go wrong.
Most of all it's time to embrace the undeniable -- soccer in Canada doesn't need the approval of the mainstream to be relevant. It is the mainstream now and has been for at least a decade.
Edited by Duane Rollins