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  • Is Our Future in Our Hands?


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    It’s the year 2021, the CMNT are ranked the best they have ever been. The CPL is in it’s 3rd season, and has their champion qualifying for the Champions League. We got a world class kid from Edmonton part of the winning culture at Bayern Munich, a kid from Ottawa leading Ligue 1 in goals off the back of leading his team to their first championship in 10 years, and two Brampton boys lifting trophies in an Istanbul. 

    What do these guys/clubs have in common other than being Canadian? They all developed their game on Canadian soil.

    But what does that mean going forward. Is this “golden generation” more than an anomaly - how do we really take control of our future? It starts by changing the overall perception of the game in Canada and maximizing the potential of our league - the Canadian Premier league, and here’s how that looks.

    “Breaking news Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, and the Vancouver Whitecaps will join the CPL prior to the 2026 World Cup.”

    Now you’ve probably read that and thought “this guys smoking that lala land stuff” or “the MLS has done so much for the development of Canadian mens soccer, this would be a setback”….but wait, hear me out. 

    Here’s why, let’s look at Player Development: 

    There is a massive contingent of active national team players that are Canadian developed. (I.e they’ve played their developmental years in Canada, and went pro in Canada or USA. Miller, Waterman, Laryea, Davies, David, Buchanan, Johnston, Crepeau, Adekugbe, Henry, Kaye, Osorio, Fraser, Shaffelburg, Akinola) some are TFC, Impact, Whitecaps academy trained, some are Sigma, Vaughan SC trained, some are your regular local youth club. However a lot of these guys have “randomly” burst onto the scene just based on being given an opportunity, and I don’t believe some of these guys are who they are today solely because of MLS. We have homebred talent, we just don’t have the overall product to suffice. Which goes to my next point. 

    Perception

    Yes the CPL is considered CAN D1 to the “in-the-knows”, but to the average person it is perceived as amateur, doesn’t exist or the “so do they play in the same league as Toronto FC”…Fan perception has a massive effect in our biggest metros, and it’s  important piece of this league to make it more than just a developmental league. Not having the countries biggest cities, and biggest teams in it will always be a huge detriment to the overall look of the league, no matter how much it evolves. So what does the league look like if they are there. 

    Infrastructure/Competition: 

    Currently there are 8 CPL teams, with a future 2 clubs in Saskatchewan, and the Vancouver proper. Add Quebec City team because we all know there needs to be a team there. You add the 3 MLS Teams and it equals to 14 teams. 

    A great base to solidify the first division footprint. The D3 leagues are building out, which will naturally facilitate with the development of building the pyramid upwards. 

    The leagues salary rules could be a hybrid of MLS & CPL (2M + 3 Luxury Players)

    Here’s some of the positives: 

    • The former MLS teams can still be competitive
    • Increased options for Canadian players 
    • An expanded Voyageurs Cup
    • More CCL slots
    • Argument to  play in the Concacaf regional Leagues Cup.
    • More Canadians tested on the regional stage

    (As of 2024, there will be a 10% chance that our “best”Canadian teams can qualify for champions league through MLS Cup. A 6% chance at qualifying through Leagues Cup)

    In the current & future state, our Canadian representation will be heavily affected or heavily skewed due to the fact that our “top” (MLS) teams will have a lower chance at qualifying over the likes of the CPL teams. Every iteration of the tournament will potentially have 1 MLS team, and 3 CPL teams baring a miracle if the 3 Canadians teams win one of the Supporters Shield, MLS Cup, Leagues Cup or the Voyaguers Cup - the odds will always be stacked against us.

    So where’s the consistent chance at testing our guys against the best in Concacaf before they reach the national team. Development will be bottled if our alleged best, most financially backed clubs aren’t consistently able to test themselves with homebred talent against the continental powerhouses. 

    Some will say “I would hate for our league to be like La Liga or the Bundesliga, where the same one or two teams win all the time (ahem Forge) but it won’t because of the baseline parity these teams would have. We have to navigate through the hype and success of the men and woman’s national team successes, and solidify ourselves as Concacaf  powerhouse.
    This era isn’t an anomaly. This is how we control our future.
    This is our USA 94 moment.  

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    Interesting article - and thesis.  I have always maintained that I am intrigued by both options and probably am good either way.  

    I am not anti-MLS and I recognize the value it has brought to the Canadian player landscape.  We have excellent national team players who have either started (Larin, Buchanan) or maintained (Oso, Kaye, Laryea, etc) their careers in MLS.   The league has achieved a level of play that allows our players to maintain their skills in a way that lets them be regionally and internationally competitive.   In short, our participation in MLS generally has to be viewed as a success (even if some of the issues like domestic player status are still annoyingly US-centric). And I don’t see that progress reversing - ever   I think MLS is now a proven league and it will never be less that what it is now.

    Conversely, the idea of strengthening our domestic league with the strong presence of our three biggest markets is also pretty intriguing.   There is no doubt that it would add a strong degree of financial stability and would enhance the perception of legitimacy among the doubters who might now view it as a 2nd class product (while MLS is on the country).   While some MLs supporters might maintain that there would be a drop off in interest and less overall investment, it could also be argued that CPL-based teams on the Big 3 markets would still draw substantial support and would help strengthen the league to the point where other markets would see increased interest, traction and investment. 

    Like I said, I am somewhat on the fence.  I see the upside to either scenario.   The good news is that I think both options lead to substantial benefits for Canadian soccer so I see progress as pretty much inevitable (assuming CPL can survive and grow).  

    One thing that I tend to factor into the equation that may make me lean ever-so-slightly towards the status quo is the growth potential of MLS.  Recognizing that soccer is different from almost all other sports insofar as the economic and sporting centres for footy lie outside the US, it is hard to deny the fact that the US is home to the biggest/richest leagues in the world for hockey, basketball, baseball, and football (many of which are admittedly predominantly North American sports).   But if you look at the potential economic outlook as MLS continues to grow and gain traction in the US market, I think it has the capacity to grow into one of the bigger leagues in the world over the next decade or two.   And taking that sort of long view, Canada having 3 teams in that sort of eventual top-tier league would continue to have a substantial impact on footy in this country.  

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    Just now, dyslexic nam said:

    One thing that I tend to factor into the equation that may make me lean ever-so-slightly towards the status quo is the growth potential of MLS.  Recognizing that soccer is different from almost all other sports insofar as the economic and sporting centres for footy lie outside the US, it is hard to deny the fact that the US is home to the biggest/richest leagues in the world for hockey, basketball, baseball, and football (many of which are admittedly predominantly North American sports).   But if you look at the potential economic outlook as MLS continues to grow and gain traction in the US market, I think it has the capacity to grow into one of the bigger leagues in the world over the next decade or two.   And taking that sort of long view, Canada having 3 teams in that sort of eventual top-tier league would continue to have a substantial impact on footy in this country.  

    Some excellent points and this last bit is certainly worth considering.

    I think this "business" argument may in the end win out, but then I think there needs to be a creative way to compensate the CanPL for the lost business that this imposes. Perhaps make continuation of the waiver contingent on the MLS teams providing some sort of consideration to the CanPL? No idea what that could look like but I am sure there is something that could be worked out creatively.

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    26 minutes ago, ted said:

    Some excellent points and this last bit is certainly worth considering.

    I think this "business" argument may in the end win out, but then I think there needs to be a creative way to compensate the CanPL for the lost business that this imposes. Perhaps make continuation of the waiver contingent on the MLS teams providing some sort of consideration to the CanPL? No idea what that could look like but I am sure there is something that could be worked out creatively.

    I like that idea.  Share the benefits.  And it is a fundamentally fair approach insofar as the teams continue to operate in the US-based league at the discretion of the CSA 

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    There is just no way to move the Canadian MLS teams into the CPL and keep them at anything like their current level.  Osorio alone makes comfortably more than an entire CPL team.  The lowest paid bench warmer in MLS makes the same or more as the top paid CPL player.  The club valuations for the MLS teams are literally 100 times greater than those of CPL teams.  This would be like suggesting we improve the CHL by forcing the Canadian NHL teams to join it.

    These aren't insults to the CPL, by the way.  I want to see it grow and succeed.  It is just financially so far below MLS that moving the MLS teams there would accomplish nothing but destroying those MLS teams.  I'd like to see our MLS teams do more to develop their young Canadian talent.  All this would do, however, is remove a useful level for guys to play that currently exists between the CPL and Europe.

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    The only road to bringing MLS teams to the CPL is for the CPL to compete both financially and competitively against MLS.  The CPL structure has to be more attractive to team owners as there is none of the MLS nonsense around ownership, contracts, etc.  I would argue that CPL is much closer to competitive parity than financial parity at the moment. Forge has done very well in international competition, and CPL has looked good in the Canadian Championship. Of course, smaller teams tend to rise to the occasion for big matches, and it would be a different story over a whole season. Still, I have been surprised at the quality of play. Now, getting butts in seats and a big tv contract is more challenging. Let's see where we are at in 10 years. Maybe then an argument can be made to bring the Canadian MLS teams over.

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    I am still new to the forum so my appologies if I come accross as too blunt but while others have already made good points regarding the level of play but I do feel there is one consequence coming from it that need to be considered here: how it would impact the process of bringing the MLS teams in the CPL in itself. Simply put: I simply don't see a scenario where there is a smooth transition of the MLS clubs to the CPL and they are equally smoothly integrated into the CPL functionning happening by 2026. 

    The three MLS teams have both strived hard in the past to be accepted in the MLS and currently its level of play is higher then the CPL. I do no mean any disrepect to the CPL in that regard and I would argue that the stated objectives of its leadership, to become the third league in CONCACAF aknowledge that reality and accept for at least sometimes. As a result the only way the MLS clubs can be integrated in the CPL for at least sometimes would be to force the formers to make the change and that, to put it midly, would be a mess.

    Many fans of the three clubs who once liked the CPL and wanted to see it succeed would turn against it, causing large and bitter divisions in the Canadian soccer community. Moreover, the ownership is unlikely to take the change without pushing back and the CSA and CPL might find themselves facing legal battles against people with pretty deep pockets on anything the later might latch on. Not that their counter measures would necessarely be only legal either, as Joey Saputo (owner of the CF Montreal) also own a club in the First Italian Division and appear to have a descent amount of contacts in the high places of the Soccer world, whom he might call upon in this scenario, while Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainement (owner of the Toronto FC) is something of an institution and also own the Toronto Maple Leafs, and as a result as a pretty large network of contacts in Canada's cultural, business and political world that might also be brought to bear against the decision.

    And even if the MLS clubs can be forcibly integrated in the CPL then what? You'd have three massive markets where resentment against the league would be very present on both an organisational and fan level, which would create a toxic climate inside the CPL that could be very well be quite significantly detrimental to its future. That is if they even play in the first place, as I could definitely see a scenario where some or all of the then former MLS clubs would simply suspend operations instead of playing in the CPL as a mean to be allowed to go back to the MLS.

    IMO the best strategy here is for a strict neutrality between CPL and MLS clubs to be adopted by the powers that in Canadian Soccer. Perhaps the day will come when the CPL would have made enough headway to get the MLS clubs to join, but in the meantime the current system is working well enough. I would also argue that the example of the Welsh clubs still in the English system despite the existence of Cymry Premier, do, I would argue, show that such a model is sustainable and doesn't hurt a country's soccer culture, even if kept in the long.  We've got a good thing going right now, and both the MLS clubs and those of the CPL are important parts of our Soccer ecosystem. Lets not risk our current momentum in the Soccer world by triggering what might be a massive, and IMO entirely avoidable, crisis.

    Edited by phil03
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