Sports

The Canadian Premier League is changing the development of soccer players in Canada

A new domestic league is developing young and new talent that could turn Canada into a dominant threat in the sport.

Canadians haven’t had much to cheer for when it comes to the men’s national soccer team. Their wins are sparse and the lack of skill, creativity, and goals exemplified on the field makes games dull to watch. Their biggest achievements include winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1985 and 2000 as well as qualifying for the 1986 World Cup, placing twenty-fourth out of twenty-four teams. Besides that, poor results take up the rest of their resume. 

The problem is that there hasn’t been a professional competitive league designated for Canadians to gain experience and opportunities from. However, this year saw the inaugural season of a new league that aims to develop a new generation of players capable of bringing trophies home to Canada.

The Canadian Premier League (CPL) is a FIFA and Canada Soccer sanctioned Division 1 men’s soccer league consisting of seven teams across the nation. The league focuses on developing Canadian players, referees, and coaches and to showcase their talent in Canada. 

The season has surprised fans, players, and soccer enthusiasts as it narrows down to its first ever final. The league’s attendance has had large numbers. The highest attended game was the season opener with 17,611 people, and games have had an average of about 4,300 people in attendance. The league has also been extremely competitive, with games being mostly decided by one goal, and teams only separated by a few points in the standings. The two stand out teams are Cavalry FC and Forge FC. They have both already clinched a place in the CPL Championship and topped the league in both halves of the season. 

Their competitiveness is also demonstrated outside the league. Cavalry FC were set to play the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Voyageurs Cup, also known as the Canadian Championship. In this event, some CPL teams and all three Canadian MLS teams play each other to compete to be the best team in Canada. MLS teams are favoured to win because they play in a “more competitive” league. Cavalry FC on paper shouldn’t have been a problem for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Remarkably, Cavalry FC beat the Whitecaps 2-1 on aggregate. This shows the depth of skill and the level of play that  teams have in the league.

There are strict rules that ensure the league will develop Canadian players. The rules mandate that fifty percent of every team’s roster must be made up by Canadians, with a limit of seven international players. Also, teams must field a minimum of six Canadian players per game. Each team must have at least three Canadians under the age of 21 that play a combined minimum of 1,000 minutes per season. 

The league’s first season has already produced national-level players with two CPL players selected to play for the Canada Men’s National team: Marco Carducci and Amer Didic. 

Carducci, the goalkeeper on Cavalry FC, was called up for the opening two-game set against Cuba in the 2019-2020 CONCACAF Nations League. John Herdman, the head coach of Canada’s men’s soccer team stated, “Marco’s call-up is well deserved. I’m pretty excited to get him in and start working with him. You only have to look at the stats on Marco in the CPL.” Carducci didn’t end up playing in both of the games, but it was a great example of how the league can lead to opportunities for these Canadian players. Didic, a defender on FC Edmonton, was announced to be on the roster for the CONCACAF Nations League against the United States, but also didn’t end up playing.

The league couldn’t have come at a better time. With the announcement of the 2026 World Cup happening in Canada along with the United States and Mexico, they have an automatic qualification into the tournament. This gives enough time for the league and the players to grow and result in a world-class team that could get through the group stage and make history in Canada. 

The future does look promising for Canadian soccer with stars like Alphonso Davies and the young blood in the CPL. Canada Soccer has struggled in the past but with these necessary steps that were taken in the last few years, Canada might not be considered an easy game anymore.

Image Credit: Flickr/Coastal Elite

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