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  • How would a coast-to-coast Canadian league look?


    EMBARGOED, just started it

    So, can a coast-to-coast Canadian soccer league work?

    A group led by former national team player Jim Easton is currently in the process of figuring that out -- more specifically, they're determining whether a Division II league (same level as NASL) in this country is viable.

    If you want to read their findings, you'll have to wait a few months. Until then, spoiler alert: Geography would be the major potential deal-breaker. Investors would need to be found. Venues would need to be built. But lots of people here like the game so yeah, maybe, possibly, it could work.

    Now, realistically, unless a dozen soccer-crazed Canadian benefactors emerge from obscurity overnight, there will be no true coast-to-coast Canadian league in the foreseeable future. But, there very well could be a coalition of regional conferences that crown a national champion. And when you drill down into it, there are a few ways (some more wacky than others) that it could look.

    First off, let's figure out who exactly could be included in the league. Some of these cities have existing teams at various levels, some don't. Some have pre-existing usable stadiums, some don't. Some have local investors who've previously shown an interest in soccer, some don't. But for the sake of argument (and since this is all hypothetical musing anyway), let's say that those issues could be addressed, somehow. Magically.

    Here are 16 markets I'd toss into the mix:

    Victoria, B.C.

    Abbotsford, B.C.

    Edmonton, Alb.

    Calgary, Alb.

    Regina, Sask.

    Saskatoon, Sask.

    Winnipeg, Man.

    Thunder Bay, Ont.

    Ottawa, Ont.

    Hamilton, Ont.

    Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.

    Mississauga, Ont.

    Quebec City, Que.

    Moncton, N.B.

    Halifax, N.S.

    St. John's, N.L.

    Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal intentionally excluded, given their MLS sides (don't ask me what would happen to their Academy teams; for these purposes, we'll forget they exist.) FC Edmonton would make the jump from the NASL to the Canadian league. Many of the other cities already have teams in the PDL or other semi-pro leagues; they wouldn't necessarily make the jump, but they do demonstrate some local interest in the game.

    Now, as already said, travel costs would make a true national league untenable. So here are three ways the league could function and determine its champion:

    Alignment #1: The two-conference model

    Similar to Major League Baseball prior to the introduction of inter-league play, the teams in each conference would only play each other during the regular season.

    West conference: Victoria, Abbotsford, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay

    East conference: Ottawa, Mississauga, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Quebec City, Moncton, Halifax, St. John's

    With each team playing each other team three times (with the team getting the two home dates drawn randomly in year one, then flipped in year two, and so on), that's a reasonable 21-game season. Top four teams in each conference make the conference playoffs, which build to an inter-conference championship that could be a one-off game, hosted by the better regular-season finisher, or a two-leg affair.

    Pros: Easy to understand, decent variety of competition, reasonable length of season

    Cons: Travel costs could be prohibitive for smaller markets

    Alignment #2: The four-conference model

    Here's where things get a bit goofy, so bear with me (or don't; your choice, really). To minimize the massive travel expense for smaller teams, split the 16 sides into four hyper-regional conferences (divisions, really):

    West: Victoria, Abbotsford, Calgary, Edmonton

    Central: Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay

    Ontario: Ottawa, Mississauga, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo

    East: Quebec City, Moncton, Halifax, St. John's

    The division-naming would be an inexact science (yes, I know Thunder Bay is in Ontario) and the repetition of competition could be troublesome. Playing each division opponent five times would produce a 15-game regular season.

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