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  • The real Bloody Big Deal

    Duane Rollins

    It's been a good week for Canadian soccer.

    A rare win over our southern neighbours in u20 play was followed up by an even rarer result in Central America for the senior team. However, the best news of all was saved for last.

    Another pro team was born.

    Toronto FC confirmed what we here at CSN reported last month: That the club would operate a USL-Pro side next year.

    Now that is a Bloody Big Deal for those that like our MLS with a side of Canadian development.

    See, the CSA made it clear that an emphasis on Canadian minutes would be a requirement of any USL-Pro side it was to sanction. More than 50 percent of the roster must be Canadian and more than half (6 of 11) of the starting line-up must be from the land of poutine.

    Put aside your cynicism -- and there were some, mostly from Vancouver, looking to downplay this yesterday -- this is an important development. The most common dismissal came from those that thought that this was simply a re-naming of the MLS reserve squads.

    The MLS reserve league played in front of crowds of tens, when they were bothered to play at all -- games were frequently cancelled. There were no roster limitations and "guest" players were often involved just to make up the numbers. Those guest players were sometimes pulled from the front office staff or Sunday beer leagues. No, literally.

    Although a couple academy players would get a run out from time to time it was weeks between games and there was no consistency. In essence the reserve league was a series of closed door scrimmages.

    USL-Pro teams will operate as fully professional sides, with weekly games, daily training and some degree of media attention and pressure.

    They will have full rosters. They won't just be an extension of the team's MLS extras. Yes, a few players will be from the 24-30 roster spot of MLS, but the majority of the teams will be made up for players specifically signed to the USL-Pro side.

    In Toronto's case that will almost certainly be made up from graduates of the TFC Academy. These are players that would have just drifted into careers in real estate and construction in the past. Most will eventually end up there anyway, but some will prove they belong at a higher level.

    Some may even become a Canadian Dom Dwyer. Canada needs Dom Dwyers.

    So does TFC. And, as someone that watched a lot of TFC Academy games this year I can tell you that people are going to be presently surprised at the quality of the players that will likely make up the USL-Pro roster.

    Below an educated guess on what TFCA grads are most likely to get a chance to impress.

    Anthony Osorio -- yes, he's related. He came to TFCA late, but has a similar development history as his brother. A 94.

    Mark Anthony Kaye -- maybe the brightest prospect. Played nine games for Wilmington this year, scoring twice. He has a chance at signing a senior contract but will absolutely be part of the USL-Pro side. A 94.

    Jay Chapman -- ranked as the eighth best prospect in the NCAA this year, the Michigan State standout has gotten all that he can out of the NCAA.

    Dylan Sacramento -- it's a toss up as to whether the 95 should be the top player on TFCA next year or start a pro journey. Flashes of potential, but needs to be more consistent. It says here you might as well push him up a level. We know what he is in League1.

    Chris Manella - similar to Sacramento. It's time to push him to find out if he's a pro. A 94.

    Marco Rodriquez -- maybe League1's best player last year, but he's a 92. It's now or never.

    Eli Roubos -- a 96, they may want to protect his NCAA eligibility -- he's at Oregon State -- but his potential is through the roof. Might as well get him in a fully pro environment now.

    Mo Babouli -- by far the most fascinating player. He came from a non traditional pathway and he's not soccer young anymore (a 93), but...he can score. He has an unteachable nose for net. TFC needs to test him at a higher level because if he can score there then maybe, just maybe, this is the elusive Dom Dwyer we talked about.

    Marcos Nunes -- a similar game to Kaye and a very intriguing prospect as a 96.

    Jordan Hamilton -- he'll be with the senior team, but the ability to get him minutes in USL-Pro is why the Reds can afford to bring him home.

    Add those players to young Canadians like Ashtone Morgan and Kyle Bekker who need minutes beyond the ones they are getting at TFC -- and include the young players already on homegrown contracts -- and feel free to get excited. Bloody big excited.

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