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.
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.”
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.
They really should have put one in their own net just for the symbolism of it. I mean, 8-0 is nice – historic, even – but 8-1 would have been a delicious result in the first competitive game of John Herdman’s men’s coaching career.
If you’re reading this site, I don’t need to explain why.
Alas, the Red and White played it straight and find themselves solidly in second place of the CONCACAF Nations League qualification after most of match-day one is completed.
The plus 8 is the vital number here. As I wrote Friday, there are some games where the sports clichés don’t factor. This was one. The US Virgin Islands, as they currently stand, would never beat Canada. Never. It doesn’t matter that the ball is round. It was literally impossible that they could win. The talent gap was that great.
What they might have done, however, was hold Canada to a relatively small score – say 3-0 or 4-0. That doesn’t sound that bad, but in this format the big teams need to beat the minnows up. Otherwise they could easily find themselves on 10 points and out of group A (since the pot A teams play each other any team with 12 points will be guaranteed a spot in the top group once the full competition starts).
So, Canada needed to run the score and run the score they did.
Beating up USVI isn’t to be taken too seriously, but it is refreshing to have seen Canada so quickly get off the mark. That’s not always been this countries strong suit, after all.
There haven’t been a lot of surprises thus far in the Nations League, but it has proven to be a lot of fun. As previously stated, this is about getting consistent games for countries that have struggled to book friendlies in the past.
It’s also Gold Cup qualifying and although Canada would have to bomb in unimaginable ways to bring that into play, the expanded format of the 2019 tournament could make for some great drama towards the back end. A country like Saint Lucia, who won 3-0 this week, is suddenly in the mix and we should not dismiss how important it would be for a nation like that to make a Gold Cup.
All in all it was a good weekend for Canada and CONCACAF.
The controversy in Ottawa this week is distracting Canadian soccer fans from what will mark John Herdman’s competitive debut as manager of the men’s national team. That’s maybe for the best, as the first game is hardly a page turner. The US Virgin Islands haven’t played a game since 2016 and have been outscored 14-0 in the last two games they played.
USVI has won five games in its history, three of which have come against the British Virgin Islands in what I do hope is called the Virgin Derby.
They do not have a single professional on the roster. The highest level any of the players are at would be either Marshall University or the NPSL’s Dallas City.
This is arguably the weakest team Canada has ever faced in its history. It’s no hyperbole to suggest that you could field a stronger side by taking to top players from Toronto’s TSSL. Hell, you might not even need to take the top ones.
The weakness of the match-up is likely why John Herdman is lukewarm about the CONCACAF Nations League. It’s hard to see what Canada gains from playing this game. And, this is not time for the peanut gallery to chime in about how you can’t take anything for granted and any team can upset another, etc. That’s not actually true. The gap is that large. The only question will be how big the victory is.
However, it would be wrong to dismiss the Nations League’s importance based on this game. Even if Canada somehow completely bottles this classification period they still won’t be anywhere close to playing these types of teams again. This is the one and only match up they’ll get with the absolute bottom of CONCACAF. The worse shape Canada will realistically be in next year is in Group B, which will be against the Saint Kitts and Nevis and Guadeloupes of the world.
Best case is a home and home with the US or Mexico next year. That’s a realistic outcome as the top 12 nations will be in league A. Even after 8-1, Canada was still in the top 12.
Most people understand how important it will be to blood the young Canadian players in Central America and the Nations League provides the opportunity to do just that. San Pedro Sula? Bring it. Please.
Beyond Canada, the Nations League will also help countries like the US Virgin Islands by simply giving them games. Once they settle into the bottom group they’ll play competitive games against competition that is suited for them. The hope is that they’ll improve to the point where if there is a next time that Canada has to play them there might actually be a slight chance of the upset.
That’s probably a while away, but it’s nice to see CONCACAF addressing this issue, which has been around for a long time. The truth is they aren’t asking the bigger nations to sacrifice much. The US and Mexico will still have plenty of windows available to book glamor friendlies (and will probably get a competitive game against each other in the Nations League every year). Basically, everyone wins.
So, sit back and enjoy a rare stress free game involving Canada on Sunday. Bet the over.
I second the part about increasing the cap and players still wanting to come here.
Is the money great? Hardly. However Canada is still really, really attractive compared to other places especially the Concacaf nations (which is going to be a big part of the CanPL pipeline). The standard of living is much higher and there's a next to zero chance of fan violence towards you. Plus there's TV & streaming which will allow a lot of scouts to watch you play a lot.
Bigger issue for York 9 attendance would be Saturday afternoon games. In Ontario the kids under 12 participate in what they call festivals. These events take place Saturday mornings and early afternoon. A friend od mine's son's team was asked to participate in the game opening ceremonies at a York 9 game and only 4 kids(parents) opted to participate. Also, he is given comp tickets on a regular basis.
Now that the 'summer' is over we'll see if it makes a difference.
I think the structure is now there in the nik of time. Now we just need CPL teams to grow in to the competition to spice it up because it's a bit predictable atvtgis point. Takes time and I thought the energy in the game was great but only watched the first half