We don’t like life getting in the way of our sports.
Sports are supposed to shield us from the day-to-day irritations and stresses. They are our escape. So, when “real life” sneaks its way onto the playing fields many get angry.
“STICK TO SPORTS,” is the cry when someone tries to start a conversation about more serious topics. That’s a best case response. Worse?
“YOU’RE LYING/EXGGERATING/NEED TO SUCK IT UP.”
Often the voices calling to be heard are shouted down by those that just want to cheer.
We see this in soccer all the time, especially as it relates to racism. And, of course, as always, anything that has to do with women. It’s toxic when fans do this. It destroys lives when institutions do it.
Such is the case of Bob Birarda and the accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment made against him by, so far, 12 different women who were coached by him while part of the Canadian u20 program and Vancouver Whitecaps elite women’s team. The alleged incidents took place in and around 2008.
The 12 women came forward after Ciara McCormack published a blog detailing the abuse of power she witnessed while at the Whitecaps at that same time.
I won’t go into the details here as it is better stated by the 12 women and McCormack, but suffice to say it was horrific.
It also wasn’t a surprise to anyone that has been around Canadian soccer over the past decade. I first heard a version of this story about nine years ago. It’s been whispered by those “in the know” for years.
Yet, nothing ever was said publicly. Worse, nothing was done privately either. Prior to the accusations finally becoming public Birarda was still coaching women’s soccer for the club Coastal FC. He’s since been suspended by the club pending review of the accusations.
Over the past while, I’ve been thinking about why I never wrote or talked about these accusations publicly over the last decade. A fear of being sued likely played a role, but I was involved with a show in It’s Called Football (along with this website) that went after matchfixing (Ben Rycroft’s reporting leading the way), corruption in minor soccer (hello, Ben Knight) and talked openly about potential improprieties in Mo Johnston’s relationship with certain player agents.
In a previous job, I wrote a story accusing the Northern Ontario Minor Hockey Association of systemic racism against aboriginal players.
So, I’ve pushed the boundaries as a journalist before. Why didn’t I here?
I should have. And, I apologize for not doing so.
The question is one that I don’t yet know the answer to. But, it’s one that I, and everyone who heard the same whispers, needs to keep asking themselves so that it never happens again.
Ciara McCormack will be a guest on SoccerToday on Monday, live at 11am ET @SoccerTodaySPN
The Toronto Blue Jays were 20 days away from winning their first World Series. Bill Clinton was running for President.
And Canada had just lost its professional soccer league. When the Winnipeg Fury finished off their upset of the Vancouver 86ers on Oct 4, 1992, that was that. The dreams of the 1986 generation were dead and the dreams of the next were dead on arrival.
Although the game lived on at the D2 level and, eventually, MLS came to fill a tiny part of the void.
In exactly one month the long, hopeless, depressing walk in the woods will end. When Forge FC kicks-off against York 9 we can finally stop talking about what we don’t have and instead focus on what we might become.
In honour of the final 30 days without a pro soccer league here are the top 30 things I hope to see in CanPL over the next 5 years.
30. A wonder goal makes the sports packages.
I don’t care who or what team, but in a year where building recognition is the most important thing I hope to see a goal or play crossover into the mainstream.
29. Someone dislikes someone
Sports aren’t fun without conflict. The league will arrive the day there’s some true anger and rivalry
28. I’m (or other neutral reporter) is accused of bias
I don’t have a horse in the race, but I look forward to being accused of it. That will mean fans are being irrational and fans should be irrational.
27. Barrett’s Privateers is sung in Halifax
I mean, come on.
26. The Fury get humbled
Sorry, Ottawa fans but the Fury represent every negative person out there who tells us its silly to care about this league. It would be great to put a few goals past them in the V-Cup.
25. Fury and CanPL make up
…and then see the two groups make up for the good of the sport
24. A mostly CanPL u23 team excels at Olympic Qualifying
Now, wouldn’t that be nice…
23. The Fury join the fold
And all is forgiven
22. Quebec gets in
The league needs to be in French Canada and, especially, Quebec. Adding Ottawa and Montreal would be huge
21. A coaching change happens
I don’t wish to cheer for someone to lose their job, but the first coaching change that happens will be a sign of a healthy league – winning should matter.
20. Lower Mainland in
Three expansion teams might seem like a lot, but they brought seven in this year. Having a presence in all three major metros is important
19. A young player leaves for MLS
Establishing the league as a natural part of the player pathway is vital. It would be a huge success if a young player is poached by MLS in just the second year.
18. A V-Cup upset
One of TFC, VWFC or IMFC gets embarrassed in one leg of a series. It’s a bit early to hope for more, but that would be a great day for the league.
17. CanWPL announced
Planning to start a women’s league begins in earnest
16. Full D3 coverage
The League1 Ontario concept is extended to all 10 provinces, with a national D3 championship determined
15. A rival for Winnipeg
One of Regina or Saskatoon joins to bring the league to 11
14. A rival for Halifax
One of Moncton or Quebec joins to bring the league to 12
13. Al-Classico featured in some cheesy ultras profile
It shouldn’t matter, but we’re lying if we don’t admit that we want the rest of the world to notice
12. WE QUALIFY TO QATAR!!!!!
Not fully CanPL related, but let’s allow ourselves to dream a little
11. Kitchener-Waterloo joins
As one part of a SW Ontario expansion that hits the biggest population area still without a team
10. With London
And the 519 derby is born (just don’t call it that)
9. The women get a cup
Using the D3 teams along with a few CanPL senior women’s teams that are up and running the first women’s Voyageurs Cup is held
8. A player is sold to a Big 5 league team
This is what it is all about
We score a goal and compete with honor. There are players on the roster that played in CanPL
6. CCL Fever
A Can PL wins the qualifying tournament and gets a shot at the region’s big boys
Welcome St. John’s!
4. The first 16 round out
The 16th team joins – lets say Mississauga or Scarborough to round-out the GTA
3. First evidence the league is part of our culture
“16-year-old Dave Smith said ‘I always dreamed of playing for Forge. My dad used to take me to the games.”
2. The Canadian Women’s Premier League kicks-off
To a stable and successful future…
1 – The plan to launch CanPL2 and Pro/Rel is announced
And we smugly hold it over US soccer Twitter’s heads.
It almost seems blasphemes to openly worry about CanPL popularity at this point. Suggesting that the league will struggle to find relevance in a crowded sports market is something grumpy old sportswriters, clueless hockey fans and (some) Ottawa Fury fans do.
The rest of us are all in. True believers in this wonderful project. Planning has been ongoing for five years now. Everything has been put in place to make this thing work.
It’s failed before. Twice. First when the NASL blew up in 1984 (although that was more top do with American teams – OK, the New York Cosmos – overspending and ultimately misreading the market. Once the stars left so did the fans. The second time was all on us though. The CSL died on the vine in the 1990s and with it the hopes of nearly two decades of Canadian soccer.
Those failures are not viewed with nuance by most. Rather, it’s just proof that trying again is foolish and that it’s only a matter of time until it all comes crashing down again.
If you’re reading this you probably feel that things are different this time. You understand that two of the three NASL teams that didn’t fold (Whitecaps and Toronto Blizzard) were in Canada and both would have continued on if the league had not pulled the plug. It’s appreciated that the CSL was littered with owners who had far more good intentions than actual capital and that the CanPL owners are running in a completely different tax bracket.
You get all that, but that doesn’t mean that the feeling will be held by the majority of sports fans in this country. Those grumpy sportswriters and broadcasters still hold a lot of influence. The most listened to sports radio show in the country has featured two segments on the latest attempt to start a spring football league in the USA, but not a single word on CanPL.
We in the soccer community can dismiss the importance of this, but the reality is it’s an obstacle that is going to need to be overcome for the league to thrive.
Note, I said thrive, not survive. It will survive just fine. The demographics have shifted. The soccer-hating generation is literally dying off. Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that the three MLS teams would have become as important to their market as they have. Now, it’s silly to even suggest that’s going to change. Flash-forward 20 more years and it stands to reason that many of the current CanPL markets, and some we have yet to even conceive, will feel the same way about their soccer team as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal feel about theirs now.
But, there will be struggles initially. Struggles to get attention and to get butts in the seats.
And, make no mistake, those that want the sport to fail – and their remains a few who do – will glory at any struggle the clubs face.
Hell, even MLS still faces this in certain places. To the point that they had the research firm Boston Consulting research the market in 2015 so that they could grow their fan base. This is useful to CanPL fans in that they also included Canada in the research. Although they did not separate the data, you can draw conclusions of what CanPL will be facing when it comes to getting people to care.
What they found was that 66% of MLS fans fell into one of two broad categories. The “Soccer enthusiasts”-- highly engaged, soccer-first fans – and the “Hardcore Sports Fan – basically the crazy guy at the end of the bar that can talk in detail about the 1996 Western Regional final in NCAA basketball while filling out his fantasy NFL line-up and watching the Sens play the Hurricanes on a Tuesday night in November
That guy also likes soccer now. That’s a change over last couple decades.
The thing is those two groups only account for 32% of all soccer fans. So, MLS is missing out on 68% of its potential market.
Therein lies the biggest problem for CanPL. How do you avoid the same resistance to MLS that more than 2/3 of American soccer fans have?
It starts by understanding why that 68% aren’t watching their local team. There the numbers are a little less obvious.
The inclination of many would be to assume that those fans are so-called “Eurosnobs,” – fans only interested in watching the highest levels of play. However, the MLS research suggests that only 2% of fans fit that description. Related, that 2% account for 98% of the posts on BigSoccer’s US abroad forums.
Where, then, do the rest fit in? We can only speculate, but it stands to reason that a good chuck are “MexiSnobs” and a good number don’t have a local team to relate to.
You can’t do much about the ____Snobs fans. They have made up their mind for the most part. But, on the latter point you can absolutely address it. You need to be doing all in your power to make sure that the clubs are extensions of the community they represent.
MLS does a lot of things right, but they often default to the business side of life. If you talk to a lot of MLS fans they will tell you that their loyalty is to the stand that sit in and the friends that have made at the game over the years more than it is to the franchise that they watch.
Even as MLS teams do things to become true “clubs” they can’t ever totally shake that “franchise” label. The CanPL has the great advantage of being able to look at everything MLS has done right and everything that it has done wrong.
And that might allow them to tap into the missing 68% more effectively.
With less than two months to go to the start of the first ever CanPL season the league is starting to take shape. Sure, we might not have all the information that we would like, but by in large you can kind of close your eyes and see it now.
Having gone through a four year journey from rumour to reality it’s more than a bit surreal.
But, it’s not as surreal as the thought of Diego Forlan ending his career in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
That’s not a knock on Winnipeg. It’s just not normally seen as a place where guys that played in Madrid and Milan end up.
Maybe it is now though and that’s another aspect of the league, albeit not the one that most people focus on. It’s also an aspect that will divide opinion.
Keeping in mind that the Forlan rumour is far from a sure thing – it’s just the first true “silly season” suggestion in the league’s history. There will be more – should fans be excited by the possibility of an aging global superstar ending his career, or should they worry about the league losing its focus and becoming more about the sizzle of marketing than the steak of development.
Yes. The answer to both is yes. But, as long as the 6 Canadian starting rule is in place it doesn’t seem likely that the CanPL is going to go down the path of the Beckham-era MLS. In that case, is there really any harm in a guy like Forlan coming over?
Some might suggest that he’s taking time away from a young Canadian. Maybe, but at 40 he won’t be taking that time away for long. The key would be to make sure he was coming with the understanding that his role was to be a mentor to young players as much as it would be to score goals for Valour.
If he is willing to play that elder statesmen role then it might be a very good fit – particularly if he could be convinced to play a role beyond his playing years. Maybe that seems farfetched, but there’s a tournament of note happening here in 7 years. A guy like Forlan might see opportunity in associating himself with that.
As stated, this is still a long shot, but the underlying value of foreign players coming in and sticking around remains an important part of the league. Those players won’t often be in Forlan’s league, but think about how much Danny Dichio has given to the Toronto soccer scene. His value to the game here goes far beyond seat cushion memories.
The game has come a long way since those cushions flew, but it still has a long way to go, especially in places like Winnipeg where they are just now getting a professional team.
So, if Forlan comes don’t over think it. Instead, sit back and see what happens. It is hard to argue it would be a bad thing. At worse, he comes, sells a few tickets and fades away without doing much else.
At best, he helps mold a future Canadian national team striker. Either way, the league will march on.
Let's start with the obvious. Sebastian Giovinco will be missed. Mostly by Toronto fans, but also by MLS fans in general. The little Italian thrilled fans for four seasons, scoring 73 league goals, many of them of the jaw dropping variety.
He also won. Three Voyageurs Cups and a Supporters Shield were the appetizer to the ultimate prize. The 2017 MLS Cup championship.
Dream stuff for long-time TFC fans who lived through a lot of bad football to get to that day.
He was a Bloody Big Deal.
And, now he's gone. Not with a bang, but rather a pout. Walking out the door in the middle of the night with an Instagram post that thanked the fans and accused the ownership of cheaping out, no longer caring about the results on the pitch.
It's a time honoured strategy of players. A Blame the suits move. They're the bad guys that don't care about you little guys in the stands. Make sure to come out for my autograph signing in 2023. Only $50 for a photo!
Let's be clear. Giovinco has every right to chase the paycheque. I wouldn't turn down $30m and neither would you. But, that's what's happening. Had TFC offered Giovinco the same number he'd be perfectly OK with ownership's commitment to winning. It was their evaluation of his worth that informed his opinion.
This was always going to happen. This was a player that left Juventus to join TFC, effectively ending his chance at playing internationally again. If he was driven by glory he signs a cheaper deal with a Sassuolo, Chievo or Genoa, rips it up, and has 20 more caps for Italy by now. No one dreams of leaving Juve for Toronto.
You only leave Juve for two reasons: for money or opportunity to advance your career further. Unless Giovinco thought his agent had misspelled Torino when he sent the offer to him he was coming to Toronto for the money.
And, he's leaving Toronto for the same reason. It was always going to end this way.
In terms of the football, it's going to be difficult for Toronto fans to critically evaluate whether it was right for Toronto to let him walk. Should they have matched the Saudi offer and let Giovinco retire as a TFC player?
Well, he's 32. It's pretty much universally understood that attacking player's peak years are between 23 and 31. The decline after that can be sharp. So, Giovinco is, statistically speaking, past his prime years.
There are outliers though. Is Giovinco trending upwards?
His stats over last four years:
2015 -- age 28, 34 app, 22 goals, 13 assists
2016 -- age 29, 34 app, 21 goals, 16 assists
2017 -- age 30, 29 app, 17 goals, 7 assists
2018 -- age 31, 28 app, 13 goals, 7 assists
His appearances, goals and assists figure has dropped each of the last two seasons. Doesn't seem to be out of line with statistical norms. If his production drops the same percentage this year as it did between 2017 and 2018 he would end up with between 9 and 10 goals in 2019.
That's a quality MLS forward, but not a DP and certainly not a $10m a year DP.
Of course it's also 10 goals TFC is going to need to replace. That's the other side of this move and one that can't be evaluated until it happens. But, by making the move today they have the DP space and money to start that process in the summer, which is generally when MLS teams make their big moves.
One of the first things they team you in Journalism School is that you should never put a date in your lead. The first paragraph of any story needs to grab the attention of the reader and no one gets excited by a date.
That might explain why the Canadian Premier League didn’t lead off its press conference yesterday with the date of its first ever game. Instead, they started by explaining how Volkswagen Canada was the league’s first major corporate partner. More on that in a minute, but to most fans they buried the lead.
April 27, 2019 at 1pm in Hamilton, Ontario. The 905 Derby (ugh, really. You have a team of marketers and that’s what you came up with. What is it with this region and its obsession with area codes?).
The only problem with this – if you view it as a problem – is that the game is at a time that will make it impossible for fans to go to both that game and Toronto FC’s match with Portland at 3pm.
A few celebrate this “shot across the bow” of the CanPL against the established team. It shows intent and a failure to be fearful of Big Bad TFC.
Far more people were puzzled. Why would you cut out thousands of potential fans be making it impossible to do both games that weekend? In time, Hamilton and York will have a solid core of fans that live and die with the team. A tiny, tiny, tiny amount do now. Until that changes it is absolutely vital that CanPL teams seek out fans that are also fans of MLS teams in Canada. This move eliminates the possibility of the curious taking a flyer on the CanPL game as well as the MLS game.
It was preventable and it was a mistake to schedule the game in such a way.
I argued this strongly on Twitter yesterday. Roughly 95% of the people who interacted with the Tweet agreed. Twitter is hardly a scientific tool, but it also isn’t without influence.
It wasn’t long until the insiders were slipping into my messages to tell me that another announcement was coming soon that would make it all make sense. The implication was that this was a TV decision and that it was done to maximize the viewership there.
After hammering back and forth with a few people today what I’ve pieced together is this: The CanPL is very close to working out a pay-to-broadcast deal with TSN. Basically, the CanPL would pay for all production and talent costs and share in advertising revenue generated during the broadcast. In exchange TSN would promote the airing of the games.
No guarantees on editorial content beyond that, but SportsCentre sure does talk about the CFL a lot. Sportsnet, not so much. TSN has 100% of the CFL rights.
It was even suggested that the Volkswagen deal was largely tied into the deal. Basically, the auto giant would be the title sponsor of the broadcasts.
It’s not an uncommon relationship for a start up league and, on the surface, not the worst idea. They aren’t getting on TSN in a standard rights deal and streaming only will make it hard for them to get much traction beyond the hardcore audience that is only so big.
But, it’s still a bad idea to schedule games so that fans in MLS markets are forced to choose between. At best, it’s just disrespectful of fans. Ignoring that there are conflicting loyalties at play is silly and if you force a long-time TFC fan from Hamilton to pick a side he’s likely staying at BMO Field. That’s doubly the case with the York market, which already mostly identifies with being from Toronto anyway.
So, why? Just why?
Finally, how many fans do they hope to gain by being on TV? The industry trend is moving away from cable TV to streaming only. You’re not hitting Gen Zers with this. You’re barely hitting Gen Xers at this point.
And even the ones you’re hitting are probably already aware of the product. TFC struggles to draw 100,000 viewers. The CanPL will be lucky to hit 20,000 regularly. And all of them would probably watch on YouTube too.
Sometimes you need to be realistic. If what is being suggested in true then CanPL would have been better ignoring conventional TV this year, putting the product on YouTube for the hardcore (and getting some local TV deals), focusing on the in-stadium experience and then revisiting the major national media when the negotiations are on more equal terms.
The Ottawa Fury appear to have lost the game of chicken that they were playing against CONCACAF and the CSA. Yesterday, the club announced that they would not be allowed to play in the US-based USL for 2019. This is despite receiving a tepid approval from the CSA in September, when they refused to become founding members of the CanPL.
This leaves the Fury in a difficult position just four months out from the start of the season. However, according to multiple people working inside the game, they shouldn’t be surprised.
“They knew this was possible,” one source said. “Yet, they went ahead anyway and now they are crying about being discriminated.”
Another person went even further, suggesting that the Fury might have “half wanted (to be denied sanctioning).” The suggestion being that OSEG doesn’t really want to be involved in soccer anymore, but didn’t want to be the bad guy in fans’ eyes, least it hurt them with RedBlacks’ ticket sales.
What happened yesterday was predicted by many. In a Sept 6 article on CSN I quoted a source suggesting that this was a distinct possibility.
“Who is going to sanction them,” they said at the time “They may get a ‘pity’ sanction for 2019, but beyond that?”
Another person speculated that the CSA would be reluctant to directly challenge the Fury, but would work behind closed doors to challenge the legitimacy of the club playing in a US-based league.
“They won’t say anything publicly, but they are hoping CONCACAF steps in,” they said at the time.
We don’t know if CONCACAF is acting on behalf of the CSA, but CONCACAF did in fact step in.
The question now is what happens next. Most still believe a temporary sanctioning for 2019 will come through, but only with the understanding that this will be the final year it is permitted. Will the Fury continue with that understanding? For the sake of the fans, let’s hope so. But, relations between the CanPL and the Fury weren’t great already and, although there is no direct link between the CanPL and CONCACAF denying sanctioning, yesterday didn’t help the relationship improve.
Beyond the Fury, yesterday’s decision could have a trickle down impact on Canadian soccer. If CONCACAF is to enforce the policy evenly, you would have to think that USL-2 teams (formerly PDL) will be the next to be targeted. The rule being referenced in the Fury’s case states that no team is allowed to play in a league outside its country if a league of the same standard is available in their country. Clearly, CONCACAF has concluded that CanPL is equal to USL.
But, is League1 Ontario and the PLSQ the same as USL2?
It’s long been the desire of the CSA to stop teams at the D3 level from playing out of country in the hope that the provinces would step up and start D3 leagues. So far only two have, which has allowed several D3 teams to ignore that desire and play in the US.
With the CanPL buying L1O, there is speculation that the plan is to bring that model to all parts of the country. When that happens, you would expect that the existing D3 teams be asked to return to Canada. Anyone operating a D3 team now would be wise to plan ahead with this in mind.
Which brings us to the MLS teams. Many fans will not accept the rational that they should be exempt from this. In the interest of “fairness” it will be argued that they too should be forced to join CanPL.
It won’t happen, but it will create some bad optics for the CSA. The reason it won’t happen now is because it’s clear that forcing TFC, IMFC and VWFC out of MLS would be negative for player development and soccer culture in the country. That would be counter to the entire purpose of creating the CanPL.
Although many USL fans strongly disagree, that league is not viewed as having a net benefit to the country and thus is fair game here.
Will this eventually change? Is there a scenario where the three MLS teams are required to enter the CanPL.
Yes. And possibly sooner than most believe.
(That is if one or more of the Canadian MLS teams isn’t part of a bigger league by then – a league that is launched as part of the United 2026 bid and is designed to disrupt the established order of world football. But, that’s a topic for another day).
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.
Professional soccer is coming to Mississauga. Well, sort of. Professional indoor soccer. Or, as they call it nowadays, arena soccer.
The Mississauga Metro Stars (yes, you read that right), will begin play at the end of October in the Major Arena Soccer League, a 17 team league with teams across North America, including one in Monterrey, Mexico.
This isn’t the first time that an indoor/arena/hocker/sockey team has operated in the GTA, although the history has not been strong. From 1980 to 1982 the Blizzard played in the NASL indoor season and the Toronto Shooting Stars played in the National Professional Soccer League in the 1996-97 season. The team’s owners walked away from the Shooting Stars just three games into season. They lost close to $1-million and averaged just 3,000 and change in attendance.
I was one of the 3,000 on a couple occasions. My most lasting memory is the time the mascot got jammed in the door trying to get to the arena floor. The cheerleaders had to help him/her/it out. The team wasn’t very good and the atmosphere in the 15,500 seat Maple Leaf Gardens was…lacking. To say the least.
So, this new enterprise will need to break new ground if it is to become popular. That’s not to say that it can’t – TFC was seen as a huge risk in 2006. That seems laughable now. So, who knows.
Helping the cause will be one very familiar name. Dwayne DeRosario is coming out of retirement to play for the team (Adrian Cann, as well). In the early days, there will probably be more than a few people that make the trip out to Mississauga just to see DeRo play again.
Beyond whether people will care about the team is just one half of the question though. The other half is whether Canadian soccer fans should want the team to find an audience. Many view…sockey…let’s go with sockey…as an abomination on the game that encourages all the wrong kids of technical play. Beyond that there is the matter of Mississauga as a potential CanPL market. Would having an arena team there take attention away from a “real” team?
I have concerns about Mississauga as a market in general. Time will tell whether those concerns are misguided or, unfortunately, correct. Perhaps this sockey team will provide an opportunity for Mississauga soccer fans to prove that they can support a local team.
Ultimately, this is harmless. The MetroStars aren’t going to change much about the soccer landscape in this region or country, but they might provide some lighthearted entertainment in the MLS offseason.
And more DeRo! That alone makes this moderately interesting.
Thanks to Dave Bailey for providing the photos of the event.
Ex-TFC player Darren O'Dea was mentioned as a possibility for York 9 at one point. He seems to have other plans:
...with a new artificial turf surface that would be shared with the York Lions football team.
The added turf provides run-off space down the sidelines, so they have managed to make the width look fairly reasonable in the broadcast. Surprised it is only 100y long. That's the absolute minimum on FIFA regulations.
To me Halifax is the most disappointing team in terms of roster, play, and results (not attendance and atmosphere, which is great). I was hoping they would be my second favourite team, but this has definitely not happened.
My own team Pacific has its own issues, but at least it is happening with a mostly young, and primarily Canadian team. Whereas, Halifax is struggling and doing so with mostly a roster of internationals. Today there was only Langwa, Oxner, and Hocine as actual Canadians in the line-up. I understand trying to win and thus teams that do not want to go young and/or all Canadian, should not have to. But being this non-Canadian in terms of the roster, and having it not work, is not a good look.
Comparatively PFC started 7 and Cavalry 8 Canadians in their game.
Nothing on the CanPL website about the other two crowds, which is not surprising judging from this:
Not good when even the reasonably priced seats are not selling out. Big problem with the Cavalry is probably the location.
According to Gopherbashi, the actual crowd for York 9 was probably just north of 1000 or so:
...also no table seats on that side and this was a season ticket game, so that probably knocks another 100 or so off the capacity. On the bright side they have been able to use some sort of artificial turf to create enough runoff space to have a field width of around 60 yards. That moves it from farcically narrow to uncomfortably narrow. Not many fans in the supporters zone for this one:
Were they able to put in the field side seats on the main stand side? No sign of them in the short clip in this tweet:
Prediction - 23 man roster [4-3-3]
GK - Milan Borjan
GK - Maxime Crepeau
GK - Jayson Leutwiler
LB - Sam Adekugbe
CB - Doneil Henry
CB - Manjrekar James
CB - Andre Hainault
CB - Derek Cornelius
RB - Marcus Godihno
RB - Zach Brault-Guillard
Central Midfielders: (5)
CDM - Atiba Hutchinson [RET]*
CDM - Samuel Piette
CM - Scott Arfield [C]*
CM - Jonathan Osorio
CM/LB - Mark Anthony Kaye
CM - Russell Teibert
W - Alphonso Davies
W - Junior Hoilett
CF - Lucas Cavallini
CF - Cyle Larin
CF - Tosaint Ricketts
CAM/W - Jonathan David
ST/W - Tesho Akindele
Just misses the cut by position | Called up in case of injury | Replacements
GK - Simon Thomas, LB - Ashtone Morgan, CB - Adam Straith, CB - Kamal Miller, RB - Juan Cordova, CM - Will Johnson, MF - David Wotherspoon, W - Liam Millar, CF - Anthony Jackson-Hamel
Not considered: Ballou Tabla and Raheem Edwards (Lack of Playing Time)
Not available | INJ: CDM/CM - Stephen Eustaquio
*RET = Will retire from the National Team post Gold Cup
*C = Named Captain