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    Duane Rollins
    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.  

    Duane Rollins
    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.   

    Duane Rollins
    The following is a critical evaluation of each CanPL roster so far. Each player signing will be given a brief description and provided with a ranking from 1 to 5.

    Ultimately the ranking will be subjective, based on my understanding of the pool, conversations I’ve had with technical staff and the previous player of the player.

    The rankings are meant as a starting point for discussion, not an end. If you disagree, let me know in the comments. I’m open to change

    Skylar Thomas – D – Big, strong and great in the air – was a regular starter in USL – stand out at top NCAA program – 3.5/5

    Stephen Hoyle – F - International – technically strong – professional attitude—has scored at similar level in past – 3.5/5

    Tyson Farago – Keeper – deep roots to Winnipeg – journeyman keeper with solid leadership qualities – 2.5/5

    Dylan Sacramento – MF – quick player – good offensive instincts – has been questioned on commitment in past – Stand out on TFCA L1O champion team – 1.5/5

    Jordan Murrell – DF – Solid defender – regular USL starter  -- won’t standout for good OR bad reasons – 2/5

    Glenn Muenkat – MF – Fast and athletic – has struggled to get regular playing time at pro level – 2/5

    Raphaël Garcia – DF – tall defender – needs to work on strength – decent technically, but raw – from Impact acdemy – 1/5

    Raphael Ohin – MF – International – strong on the ball – impossibly good attitude – very committed player – 2/5

    Tyler Attardo – F – He’s 17! – likely a longer term project – raw rookie – 1/5

    Dylan Carreiro - --MF – Creative and technically gifted – the type of player this league was made for – 3/5

    Mathias Janssens – Keeper – international -  only 20 – was in Belgian third tier – likely a long-term project – 1/5

    Josip Golubar – MF -- international – veteran with more than 400 professional games – leader – was in Croatian second tier previously – 3/5

    Martin Arguiñarena – Very experienced and technical defender – 4/5

    Nestor Navia – VERY intriguing creative midfielder – 4/5

    Nicolás Galvis – Colombia trained player. Interesting possibilities – 3/5

    Ali Musse – Homecoming for a Foothills player – 1/5

    Diego Guitiérrez – Duel national player who played pro in Chile – 3.5/5

    Michael Petrasso –Former Canadian international. Stock has slipped, but still might have a lot to give – 3/5

    TOTAL – 18 players (2F, 5M, 4D, 2K) – Ave ranking – 2.47 – CanPL ranking 1


    Sergio Camargo – MF – Creative midfielder – TFC homegrown – been with Calgary program for while – 3/5

    Nik Ledgerwood – D/MF – 34 years old – extensively experienced – Played at very high level, but can he still keep up – great leader – 3.5/5

    Chris Serban – D – bit undersized – decent with ball – USL experience with Whitecaps 2 – bee in Foothills program for a while -- 2/5

    Elijah Adekugbe – MF – quick holding mid –suffered major injury – Whitecaps academy – 1.5/5

    Dominick Zator – D – big and good in air – limited pro experience – Been with Foothills – 1/5

    Marco Carducci – Keeper – USL experienced – Was with MLS Caps – bit undersized – 2.5/5

    Oliver – FW – Savvy forward with a lot of lower level experience – was a standout with Fury – 4/5

    Nico Pasquotti – MF – Was with Foothills – Rookie – raw – 1/5

    Dean Northover – MF – he tore up Alberta college soccer and was with Foothills – raw rookie – 1/5

    Niko Giantsopoulos – Keeper—Huge – journeyman player – professional attitude – 2.5/5

    Carlos Patino – MF – clever attacking mid – played in foothills system – 2/5

    Jordan Brown – FW – international – maybe the most intriguing signing in the league – played in the Europa League (albeit once) – ceiling could be very high – 4/5

    Julian Büscher  -- MF – Former German youth international – first round SuperDraft pick – struggled to get time at DCU – good tactical awareness – 3.5/5

    Nathan Mavila – Played at West Ham youth – described as a modern fullback – good degree of experience for young age – 2.5/5

    Mason Trafford – Solid vet – Brings experience – 3/5

    Malyk Hamilton – Exciting prospect that is returning home – 1.5/5

    Jay Wheeldon – Likely to play as much as of a player-assistant manager – Tommy’s brther 2.5/5

    TOTAL on Feb 15 – 17 players  – Ave ranking 2.38 – CanPL ranking 2

    Kyle Bekker – MF – Technically gifted. Good on set-pieces. Previous USL all-star. MLS experience. 4/5

    Chris Nanco – F – quick – bit undersized – more of a support striker in past – USL experienced – 2/5

    Marcel Zajac – F – Stand out in NCAA with Akron – rookie – intriguing prospect from technical college program  1.5/5  

    Tristan Borges – MF – Creative midfielder – youth player in Holland – Canadian youth international – first senior pro team – 2/5

    Bertrand Owundi – D – International – raw defender – struggled at MLS level – prone to errors – big and athletic – 2/5

    Kwame Awuah – D – good with ball – excelled at top NCAA program – limited MLS experience – bit undersized – 2/5

    Alexander Achinioti Jönsson – MF – strong and tall presence in midfield – been pro for 4 years – Swedish 2nd Div – 3/5

    Giuliano Frano – MF – Plays with sandpaper – Whitecaps 2 and Sounders 2 experience – good history with Forge technical staff – 1.5/5

    Dominic Samuel—D  – High ceiling prospect – League1 Ontario defender of the year – Pro experienced – 2/5

    Triston Henry – K—Solid at amateur level – raw pro – 1/5

    Jonathan Grant – D—Tall and athletic outside back – has struggled to get a chance since leaving Sigma – 2/5

    Elimane Oumar Cisse – a fascinating signing and potentially game changing – established international – if adjusts he could be a star –  He could also be a bust…thought really goes both ways 3/5

    Quillan Roberts – Needs to play. A mystery until we see it – 2.5/5

    Daniel Krutzen, -- Came from the youth ranks at Genk. Promising, but unknown – 2/5

    Monti Mohsen – Mostly a rookie – Cup of coffee at USL – 1/5

    Kadell Thomas – Long timestandout for Sigma in L1O – still a rookie – 1.5/5

    David Choiniere – High ceiling midfielder – chose CPL over USL – 2.5/5

    Emery Welshman – Homecoming for the hold up forward. Can he score? – 3.5/5

    TOTAL on March 19 --  Ave ranking 2.16 – CanPL ranking 3

    Kadin Chung – D – Outside back – considered one of best prospects – Was in Caps plans, but decided to try Europe – 2.5/5

    Marcus Haber –FW – Arguably the highest profile signing in league – full Canadian international – when on he can be very effective – some question about consistency – 4.5/5

    Alessandro Hojabpour – MF – good attacking instincts – some pro experience – 2/5

    Matthew Baldisimo – MF – Caps academy product – good amount of USL experience 1.5/5

    Terran Campbell – Raw striker – limited pro experience – 1/5

    Noah Verhoeven – MF – good attacking instincts – another young, Caps academy player – some pro experience – 1.5/5

    Mark Village – Keeper – very little experience for a player his age, even at keeper  -- 1.5/5

    Ben Fisk – MF -- Solid, professionally winger – good leadership qualities --  adaptable – 3/5

    Jose Hernandez – FW – raw rookie – 1/5

    Victor Blasco – MF – Said to be a sleeper signing by some – technically skilled – 3/5

    Marcel de Jong – D – Very experienced full-back – full Canadian international – should link well with Haber – 4/5 *** OUT FOR SEASON *** 0/5

    Nolan Wirth – k – Strong keeper with local ties – badly needs to play regularly at pro level – 1.5/5

    Issey Nakajima-Farran – Journeyman vet that has played at a good level. Still has legs? 3.5/5

    Hendrik Starostzik – Was at the B2 level, but struggled to find time. Big body. Might fit style – 2.5/5

    Lukas MacNaughton – Another big body. First pro chance – 2/5

    TOTAL—15 players (2F, 4M, 2D, 2K) – Ave rating: 2.1– CanPL rank: 4


    Randy Edwini-Bonsu – FW – Solid hold up forward with lots of experience – professional attitude – 3/5

    Allan Zebie – DF – Experienced defender familiar with FCE – does what’s on the box – 3/5

    Ajay Khabra – MF – untested midfielder – good attacking instincts – played in FCE system --  1/5

    Bruno Zebie – FW – Been in FCE system long time – one appearance in NASL – 1/5

    Ajeej Sarkaria – FW – The all-time Canada West scoring leader – untested at pro – 1.5/5

    Son Yongchan  -- MF – “The best player at the open trials” – played lower Asian leags – mystery – 2/5

    Connor James – Keeper – was arguably the best keeper in USports last year – untested as pro – 2/5

    Dylon Powley – Keeper – a long and winding road career path – excelled with Foothills – untested at pro level – 2/5

    Oumar Diouck – FW – Hold up striker with a good amount of experience—not the best finisher – played in Belgium 2nd – 2.5/5

    Ramόn Soria – DF – international -  Maybe the most technically skilled defender in league – strong leadership skills – 4.5/5

    Kareem Moses – international - DF – very experienced outside back – previously with FCE – 4/5

    Edem Mortotsi – MF – Great connection with FCE technical staff – a lot of dedication to club – solid – 2.5/5

    Tomi Ameobi – international - F - Veteran and FCE legend. -- Could be better finisher – can’t question desire – 3.5/5

    Marcus Velado-Tsegaye – MF – Young andraw. Quick on transition – 1/5

    Prince Amanda – MF – May be able to transition to outside back – good on the dribble—raw 1/5

    David Doe – FW – Has scored at will at amateur level – great work rate – young, but already experienced – 2/5

    James Marcelin – Mid – Solid journeyman – pro – has excelled at similar level – 3/5

    Jeannot Esua – D – Athletic and attack minded fullback – fairly raw – 1.5/5

    Philippe Lincourt-Joseph – M – solid player, if not spectacular – was in Impact system for good amount of time – 2/5

    Mele Temguia – D – Another Impact academy product. Dropped off map a couple years ago. Last chance? – 1/5

    Mélé Temguia – Academy grad. Rookie – 1/5

    Philippe Lincourt-Joseph – Academy grad. Rookie 1/5

    TOTAL 22 players -- Ave rating – 2.09– CanPL rank 5

    York 9

    Kyle Porter – MF – Journeyman pro – bounced around – struggled to break into MLS level but was solid for FCE in NASL – 3.5

    Simon Adjei – FW – International – Huge body – poacher – with service could be very dangerous – probably would create much on own – 3.5/5

    Austin Ricci – FW – Stand out locally, but mostly untested professionally – solid for mid-major NCAA – 1/5

    Steven Furlano – DF – no nonsense defender – some USL experience – 1.5/5

    Roger Thompson – DF – strong, professional defender – lots of experience in tier two leagues – 2.5/5

    Joseph Di Chiara – MF – Brave player – attack minded-- played in Eastern Europe – ripped up L1O – this is first time he’s in key spot on a team – could be a sleeper star in league – 3/5

    Manuel Aparicio – MF – Creative and technical midfielder that never got a real chance at TFC – make or break time – 3/5

    Cyrus Rollocks – FW – One of L1O’s best players while with TFC3 -- Big body – Potential – 1.5/5

    Wataru Murofushi – MF – technical and quick attack minded mid – scored a lot in Philippians league – mystery 2.5/5

    Munir Saleh – MF – Technical midfielder that played at a high NCAA level – Played on KW United – 2/5

    Matt Silva – Keeper – journeyman pro with lots of experience at lower European levels  -- 2.5/5

    Michael Cox – FW – Big body forward. Solid player at USL level – 3/5

    Daniel Gogarty – D – Good with ball – standout at Canadian University – raw 1/5 

    Justin Springer – D – Standard defender – raw – 1/5

    Morey Doner – D – fast, outside back – great story, but no pro experience – 1/5

    Emilio Estevez – MF – Star at Canadian college. Raw rookie – 1/5

    Luca Gasparotto – D – Once a darling of Canadian soccer – fell off radar while struggling for time in Scotland – last chance? Ceiling is high if finds form again – 2.5/5

    Diyaeddine Abzi – Fast outside back – first pro experience – 1/5

    Ryan Telfer – Loan player from TFC. Club still has hope, but he needs to show – 2.5/5


    TOTAL – 19 players (4F, 5M, 1K, 7D) – Ave ranking 2.07 – CanPL rank: 6


    Zachary Sukunda – DF – good attacking instinct – crosses well – played in Australian 2nd tier – journeyman – 2.5/5

    Akeem Garcia – F – international - quick – bit undersized – T&T youth international – 2.5/5

    Andre Rampersad – international - MF – raw midfielder – “a wildcard” – 2/5

    Elton John – MF – journeyman – good veteran experience – strong and fast – plays a mean piano – 2/5

    Jan-Michael Williams – Keeper – vastly experienced and good leader – played mostly in T&T – 4/5

    Chakib Hocine – DF – what-you-see-is-what-you-get-defender – will play safe, with limited mistakes – some question about ball skills – 1.5/5

    Elliot Simmons – MF – good prospect, if raw – passes well – limited experience – 1/5

    Vincent Lamy – F – No pro experience, but a very intriguing attacking prospect – tore up US development league last year – can he make jump to pro? 1.5/5

    Scott Firth – MF – Long-term prospect – local product – 1/5

    Ndzemdzela Langwa – D – Fast and attack minded – Limited experience – his nickname is Zoom, so that’s fun – 1.5/5

    Chrisnovic N’sa – D – young, raw defender from Impact academy – 1/5

    Alex De Carolis – D – Journeyman outside back – solid pro – 2/5

    Christian Oxner –K – Usports keeper – local to Halifax – raw – 1/5

    Kodai Iida –MF- small, but “slippery” was a stand out at open trials – a 24 year old rookie -- dedicated  -- 1.5/5

    Kouamé Ouattara – MF – Very strong – a CanPL “Yaya Toure? – pretty raw – 1.5/5

    Juan Diego Gutierrez –M—Creative – journeyman – lots of pro experience – 2.5/5

    Luis Alberto Perea F – Scored at similar level – experienced – age a question – 3.5/5

    TOTAL – 17 players (3F, 6MF, 5D, 2K) – Ave ranking – 1.73 – CanPL ranking – 7

    Duane Rollins
    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.

    Duane Rollins
    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.         

    Duane Rollins
    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).   

    Duane Rollins
    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.      

    Duane Rollins
    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.    

    Duane Rollins
    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.”

    Duane Rollins
    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.

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