Editor’s Note: this is an opinion piece by Jeff Salisbury. We at NSXI hope it will stimulate a valuable discussion about the Canadian and American soccer systems. We encourage comments!
What Canadian soccer needs is to 100% divorce itself from the current cesspool, future-coming rot and sewage, that is US Soccer. At the moment, US Soccer is engaging in its Presidential election and, if you read any of the quotes from the candidates, especially those of Cathy Carter (the bottom-line dweller who manages the dollar-sucking swine that is Soccer United Marketing), it would be painfully obvious that US Soccer is in a civil war. It’s not just the SUM-suckers vs. the pro/rel evangelists, either. It also involves the old-boys-club vs. pay equity for the Women’s program. It also involves those who think US grassroots are fine as-is vs. those fighting to bring change to youth and adult grassroots programming. US Soccer is facing down the barrel of a monstrous internal war that currently impacts the Canadian player development pathway due to how engaged we are in US leagues.
Whether it’s the corporate greed-infested, single-entity masquerading, NFL love-child that is MLS-SUM, the hideously unstable, we’re-so-individualistic-we-can’t-even-keep-our-league-running NASL, or the MLS-SUM whipping-boy USL, Canadian soccer is involved. With the USL you either get the sad story of the MLS2 teams or the actual clubs with aspirations plus the PDL, which is just a supplement for the broken NCAA college “development pathway”. No matter which of those leagues, any Canadian teams engaged with them will still be subject to any of the instability the leagues face or ridiculous policies the USSF ends up putting forward.
PDL is probably the one league where Canadian teams can generally thrive, as we’ve so far seen with KW Utd, Thunder Bay Chill, Calgary Foothills, TSS Rovers, and the Victoria Highlanders (if you ask me, right there is the makings of a great pre-season Canadian cup competition). PDL plays an extremely short season, which isn’t the best environment for a player’s development. Being a U23 league, and also being wide-open to filling your rosters with foreign players, it’s simply not optimal for Canada’s needs.
Next up we have MLS-SUM. I specifically call it MLS-SUM because that’s what it is: A league built by a marketing company to sell “sawker entertainment” and suck Canadian dollars out of the country’s three largest “markets”. MLS-SUM clearly DOES NOT have Canadian player development as part of its fabric. It’s arguable US player development isn’t part of that scratchy fabric either. MLS-SUM is by far the most damaging league of the four due to its propaganda-esque nature when it comes to the “we’re here to help Canadian soccer” lip-service “The Soccer Don” loves to speak between his teeth during interviews with Jason de Vos (a member of Canada Soccer we should all rally behind). I’d go into further detail on all the ways MLS-SUM and it’s America North franchises lie to Canada, but if you’re reading this you probably are aware of and understand all of those realities.
Next up we have that never-ending dumpster fire that is the NASL. I have a bit of a soft spot for the NASL strictly because it gave life to both FC Edmonton (RIP) and the Ottawa Fury. Both clubs made developing and playing Canadians a focus and both had Canadian coaches and staff members. Sadly the NASL sold a lie to both OSEG and the Fath Group – the lie the league could actually compete directly against MLS-SUM with barely any of the marketing and business acumen. I didn’t hate the NASL like I hate MLS-SUM because it never claimed to be a saviour to Canadian player development, or the Canadian Men’s National Team, like Liar McLieface continues to do. NASL is now going down in a drawn-out battle with the USSF, which will be interestingly encapsulated in the coming USSF Presidential election. Despite all this, the bottom line with the NASL is it’s unstable, and we can’t afford to burn relationships with city councils because the team’s league died. On top of this, it was only for the 2017 season that Canadians were treated as domestics on US-based NASL teams. At least the NASL tried to be a friend to Canada Soccer…
USL really only gets a mention because it’s a gross part of the “we’re here to help Canadian soccer” insincerity from its hemorrhoid-ridden, ugly step mom that is MLS-SUM. USL saw the Canadian MLS2 franchises come and go. Those teams were great for young Canadians to cut their teeth in a serious environment. The problem was the second they showed red ink on the income statement the America North franchises cut ‘em loose. They were ultimately susceptible to the for-profit, money-over-everything monster of MLS-SUM. Other USL franchises, such as Louisville City, have offered spots to young Canadian players, which is great. Ultimately, because of its unholy marriage to MLS-SUM, USL has ingrained itself in a system that doesn’t have Canadian development as part of its mandate.
Many will argue that it isn’t the job of ANY soccer league to develop players, only to exist as part of the grand spectrum of options for consumer entertainment dollars. I find that to be a very ‘Murica way of looking at things. If you take the current World Cup holders Germany as an example, that country HAS made its league structure part of the development process. Player development, and therefore the health of die Mannschaft, isn’t the sole purpose of the Fussball Bund, but it is part of its focus. The Canadian Premier League should have Canadian player development as part of its focus, too. Evidence from discussions with Paul Beirne and David Clanachan point to that being the case. Building out the Canadian league pyramid NEEDS to be a major focus in this country because we absolutely, unquestionably, MUST divorce ourselves from the sinkhole that is US Soccer. We have to take control of our own pathway to provide a chance for kids from coast to coast to coast to eventually make their way to a Euro mega-club like PSG, Man City, Juventus, or Bayern Munich. That might sound a bit crazy, but it happens for kids from small countries like Serbia. Let’s get a Canadian kid there, too. Part of doing that is creating independence from the US soccer pyramid.
At all levels.