Business of Soccer Archive

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NASL Commissioner Peterson would prefer a system that allowed teams to sign as many internationals as they want

NASL_logo_previewNASL Commissioner Bill Peterson doesn’t believe player quotas achieve what’s supposed to be their ultimate goal — to develop domestic players.

“We don’t think it (a limit on international players on rosters) accomplishes what it’s supposed to accomplish,” Peterson said in a season kick-off conference call on Wednesday. “We would like to see it removed.”

But he said the quotas are mandated by the U.S. Soccer Federation, and can’t be removed unless the USSF would give its blessing (not likely).

In NASL, each team can carry seven international players. In Canada, American and Canadian players are domestics. In the U.S.. American players are domestics and Canadians are internationals. But, instead of talking about those distinctions, Peterson would like to see an NASL where there are no quotas; general managers could sign the best players available.

He said an atmosphere of open competition for spots would be the best way to force domestic players to improve themselves.

The open-competition, laissez-faire take on the game was the key theme of his talk with the media. He spoke about how NASL can make itself a destination league by offering players “total free agency;” and how the competitive spirit drives the owners.

He said the NASL model gives players “more opportunities to control their own destinies.”

“We don’t concern ourselves if it is better or worse than Major League Soccer.”
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7

Why we in Edmonton should see Minnesota’s move to MLS as bittersweet

10659388_10152654651984494_3033798155037099486_nBeing in Edmonton on the day that the Twin Cities officially gets the nod as the next MLS franchise is well, kinda bittersweet.

Let’s face it; the Eddies used to have a decent rivalry with Atlanta a couple of years back because the teams didn’t necessarily like each other very much. But, really, it’s hard to pinpoint who is supposed to be FCE’s rivalry team. Ottawa? No. Except when we play each other, we all kinda cheer for Ottawa because the club is committed to giving Canadians minutes on the field.

But, with the Flyover Cup — a supporter-driven initiative which sees the winner of the FCE/Loons season series get the award — it should be Minnesota who is our closest rival. But, in a weird way, the Loons are kind of like the Eddies’ best frenemy. We’re the cold-weather cities in a league filled with tropical teams; we’re united in our sense of isolation from the rest of the NASL.

And our matches against each other, well, they’ve been excellent. The interaction between supporters has been great. It won’t be forgotten that the Dark Clouds, the main support group for the Loons, raised money when they found out about the fire that devastated the town of Slave Lake, north of Edmonton, back in 2011.

I have a lot of respect for the organization; whenever they’ve come into Edmonton the team has been great to deal with. Coach Manny Lagos has always been open with our broadcast team.

So, it’s kinda like seeing a best friend get married; you are happy for the guy, but you know your relationship will change.

Minnesota United will move to MLS in 2018; and while there will no doubt be those die-hard factions of NASL supporters who will see the team’s move as some kind of betrayal, the fact is this: The Loons’ acceptance into MLS is very, very good for NASL.
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1

The new Canada kit

Victor Montagliani, Emily Zurrer, Julian de Guzman, Desiree Scott, Mike Shoemaker

Victor Montagliani, Emily Zurrer, Julian de Guzman, Desiree Scott, Mike Shoemaker


Canadian national-teamers Desiree Scott, Emily Zurrer and Julian de Guzman posed in the team’s new kits Friday. The new Umbro kits were unveiled at the flagship SportChek store at West Edmonton Mall.

Edmonton will have more games at the Women’s World Cup than any of the other host cities, including the first two Canada group-stage matches.

The men’s team begins World Cup qualifying in June and then will be in the Gold Cup, with a potential berth in the centennial edition of the Copa America on the line.

Since The 11‘s readers have always flocked to stories about new kits, here are some pics from the event, also featuring Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani and Umbro Canada Vice-President Mike Shoemaker.
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11

ISSUE 5 OF PLASTIC PITCH: What is Canada getting out of participating in U.S.-based soccer leagues?

PP - Spring 2015 FINALWhen a magazine comes out, its all shiny and brand-new to the reader.

To the editor, it’s the end to a long process that takes months to come to fruition.

And, Issue 5 of Plastic Pitch, out now, represents our most pain-staking effort. This issue is a labour of love, of passion for the Canadian game — and asks questions about our Canadian identity within the game. It should easily become the most talked-about issue we’ve put out.

It’s our biggest issue ever, and all of the features relate back to a central theme: Is Canada benefitting from having teams in U.S.-based leagues? Is it the way forward, or do we need to find a new solution?

Inside, you’ll find:

• A look at a history of promises and pledges MLS has made to Canadian soccer fans, many of which we’re still waiting to see followed through;

• Paul Hamilton, David Monsalve and Shaun Saiko talk about the difficulties of being Canadian players in a North American league. You’ll read about contract offers that skirt minimum wage. You’ll read about Monsalve’s trial with the Jacksonville Armada, and how the team looked for ways to get him U.S. status so he wouldn’t count as an import. And Saiko opens up about a move from FC Edmonton to the Montreal Impact that went from being a sure thing to blowing up.
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2

Free agency lite: A small step forward in new Major League Soccer CBA

mls-primary_colorThe players went into the Collective Bargaining Agreement process looking for some form of free agency. Major League Soccer and its owners said that free agency would never happen in their single entity system.

The compromise that was reached on Wednesday will ensure that no labour stoppage will delay the 2015 MLS season. But it’s hard to judge just what this new agreement in principle will do to the North American player market. According to reports, free agency will be granted to players who have eight years of service in the league, and are 28 years of age or older. But, the salary increases these “free agents” can earn for themselves will be capped.

So, in terms of owners opening the door on free agency, it’s barely open a crack. The lock is off, though — and it will be up to the players to kick it down when this CBA expires five years from now.

1) If you go into free agency, and the raise you can potentially earn for yourself is capped — well, that’s not really free agency, is it? It’s a reasonable facsimile of free agency. The league already has a salary cap — which would prevent GMs from overspending on the free agent market; capping the potential increases only adds another barrier for the player.
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Why the MLS-USL affiliation makes the free-agency issue even more urgent

usl_logo_detailWhen the now-expired Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed between Major League Soccer and its Players’ Union in 2010, the league didn’t have an established farm- or minor- or developmental league system.

Sure, MLS teams could loan out players or sometimes make deals to have them spend time in NASL. But, in 2010, other than reserve-team games, there was no entrenched system that could see a team send an under-contract MLS player to an affiliated lower-league team.

But, in 2015, MLS has an agreement in place with USL; the final dominoes to fall were the Canadian teams, now that the Canadian Soccer Association has granted sanctions to USL franchises in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver — albeit with tough quotas on how many Canadians those teams must put on the field.

It really doesn’t matter if you call the USL a developmental league, a league that deserves to be recognized as second division across North America, a farm league or a minor league. The fact is, all MLS teams carry the power to assign at least some of their players to their USL affiliates, much like Canadian forward Kyle Porter spent most of the 2014 season in Richmond and after being sent there by D.C. United.

Down the road, it would be hard to imagine an MLS without two-way contracts, like we see in the National Hockey League. A two-way contract is a deal which calls for a player to make one salary figure if he plays at the major-league level, and another salary if he’s at the minor-league level.

And it’s at the USL level where the issue of free agency — the divide that separates the union and MLS brass — might be most important. If players can be “parked” in the lower division for the lives of their contracts, including team options, then it’s hard to call USL anything else but a farm system. But, if players who are with MLS teams but don’t get the chance at first-team MLS football are offered the chance to move on, then we can argue that truly, USL is a system that puts the development of the player, first.

How so?
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1

A long MLS labour stoppage could act as a massive equalizer for Gold Cup, early World Cup qualifiers

2015_CONCACAF_Gold_CupAs soccer supporters in Canada, we certainly don’t want the MLS season to be interrupted by a long labour stoppage.

Even though the Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLS and the MLSPU expired at the end of January, the sides realistically have until MLS First Kick in early March to hammer out a new deal in order to ensure that a full season can be started on time. But the sides remain on separate poles when it comes to the make-or-break issue: Free agency. And, with every report of a cancelled bargaining session or lack of progress, the worries increase that a labour stoppage will disrupt the season.

Let’s for a second imagine that we see a nuclear option: A labour impasse that stretches for a significant period of time. The Gold Cup comes up in July; Canada’s World Cup qualifiers begin a month before that. For Canada, this Gold Cup holds special significance as it acts as our qualifier for the 100th anniversary Copa America, which is set for the United States in 2016.

So, if MLS isn’t playing games, how would it affect the Canadian program?

Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani said that this country’s national team would end up faring a lot better than some of the competition.

“From the technical side, there are a handful of players in MLS who could be part of the team that would be at the Gold Cup. And it would hurt if those players weren’t playing. But, when you look at all the countries in CONCACAF, we might be one of the ones least affected by an MLS work stoppage. Certainly, it would not affect us like it would the United States, where the majority of their players play in MLS.”
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4

Before you tweet about a Canadian player, read this first

10349900_1008071179208840_1372189140274955851_nSome days, writing about Canadian soccer is depressing. Some days, I swear to myself “this is the last article about Canadian soccer I’ll ever write.”

Of course, that would make some of my harshest critics very happy indeed.

I’ve been very public about Issue 5 of Plastic Pitch. A group of great writers are working on stories about our relationship with the American soccer system. Is having Canadian pro teams mixed into the American system good for the our country’s development in the game? Has it actually hurt us?

Through the last few weeks, I’ve been working to get Canadian players to tell their stories. Many Canadian soccer writers hear the tales about aborted contracts, bizarre under-the-table deals, broken promises, fly-by-night agents and the like. But players, understandably, are worried about coming forward. They don’t want to be seen as bad eggs, dressing-room malcontents or selfish players.

But, finally, slowly, some players are coming forward. Until the stories have faces, the system won’t change. But in the process of putting stories to paper, you can’t help but get snowed under by it all. You wonder if supporting Canadian soccer is like plunging into an endless pit of hopelessness. You understand how the cards are stacked against our players. Those stories will be (at least partially) told in the next issue. It will be by far the most important thing we’ve done.

There is something I want to address, though. Something I’ve thought hard about in the process of doing these interviews. We’re in that part of the NASL and MLS silly season (and right near the closing of the transfer window). So, the message boards and Twitter are filled with jokes about the number of Canadian players on Unattached FC. Many fans wonder “why doesn’t player A try to join NASL Team X or MLS Team Y? Why doesn’t he take a chance to play halfway across the world?”
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5

Fort Mac games means Eddies will spend much of the summer outside of Edmonton

The Eddies will play two "home" games at Fort Mac's Macdonald Island facility this season.

The Eddies will play two “home” games at Fort Mac’s Macdonald Island facility this season.

On Wednesday, FC Edmonton confirmed that the dates on which it will play its two Fort McMurray “home” games.

As had been expected, the Eddies’ fall season opener — kicking off just hours before the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver — will go July 5 in Fort Mac. The NASL champion San Antonio Scorpions will provide the opposition. The Eddies will return to the heart of the oil sands on Aug. 2 for a match against the Ottawa Fury.

The team had announced last season that two games would be coming to Fort McMurray. But, with the announced dates comes a real test for the Edmonton market.

Because of the Women’s World Cup, FC Edmonton has to clear out of Clarke Stadium — which is an official practice facility for the teams — by the end of May. The team’s final home game of the spring season goes on May 24.

The next time Edmonton is at “home” is the July 5 Fort Mac game. It then goes out on a three-game road trip. FC Edmonton is finally back at Clarke July 26, but then is back in Fort McMurray the next weekend (Aug. 2).
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6

Is Sunday the worst sports day of the week? A fascinating Edmonton study

FC Edmonton plays almost all of its home games on Sunday afternoons.

FC Edmonton plays almost all of its home games on Sunday afternoons.

Major League Soccer plays some of its games on Sunday afternoons and evenings. FC Edmonton of the NASL plays all of its home games on Sunday afternoons.

But is Sunday a day that we, as in Canadians, actually want to watch sports? Or is it a day that we’d like to get away from the sporting universe? Even the most ardent fan reaches a critical mass, where he or she says “enough” and needs to do something else than follow scores and trades and watch game after game. You need to spend time with the kids, go to the lake, just get outside, talk to real people.

In the course of my editing duties at Avenue Edmonton, members of the Edmonton Eskimos brass — our city’s Canadian Football League team — sat down with me to go over an intense survey that they and Banister Research Consulting Inc. conducted. One of the key questions was: On what day do you prefer to watch Eskimos games? (You can find that full article HERE, BTW). The results were fascinating.

43 per cent said their first choice was Friday nights.
41 per cent said their first choice was Saturdays.
And — get this — only seven per cent said they’d most prefer to watch football on Sundays.
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