Home MLS More MLS Canadian quotas are price USL must pay for not having Canada at the table when MLS deal was hatched

Canadian quotas are price USL must pay for not having Canada at the table when MLS deal was hatched


Back in 2013, Major League Soccer announced its partnership plan with (officially regarded as) third division USL-PRO.

But there was a problem. It was an American agreement made with the oversight of American authorities. For MLS, which is a North American league, shutting Canada out of the process was a major problem.

So, now, both MLS and USL-Pro have to reap what they have sown. As the Montreal Impact (Montreal FC), Vancouver Whitecaps (New Westminster) and Toronto FC (maybe a team north of the city) move ahead with plans for affiliate USL-Pro teams for 2015, we have learned they will be subject to pretty tough quotas.

As reported by Duane Rollins in Canadian Soccer News (link here), any USL-PRO team affiliated with a Canadian MLS team will have to follow some strict roster rules. Half of the players on the squad must be Canadian-eligible, and six of the 11 starters must be Canadian-eligible.

By “eligible” we mean that, if Canadian national-team coach Benito Floro made the call, that player would be available to go.

The move will likely prevent teams from stashing foreign talent on their USL-PRO rosters, or treat their affiliates like true minor-league clubs. That’s fine. The Whitecaps have sent established non-Canadian pros to NASL’s FC Edmonton on loan in the past, and the two teams still have a strong relationship. Toronto FC sent Ryan Richter to the Ottawa Fury. No reason that the Fury can’t continue to build relationships with TFC and the Impact.

But let’s be clear. If you want to bitch and moan about the Canadian Soccer Association legislating new rules, understand that’s the price that comes with not inviting Canada to the table when this deal was first hatched.

I remember January of 2013, when the USL and MLS held a joint telephone press conference to announce their partnership. I had just spoke to CSA President Victor Montagliani, who at that time had some strong words about the deal. Basically, Montagliani had said that USL-PRO teams wouldn’t be allowed to be sanctioned separately from their parent teams in Canada. In Canada, we were busy digesting the Easton Report, which had suggested a different path for third-division soccer.

When I brought up Montagliani’s stance at the USL-MLS presser, there was clear surprise. There was talk about having discussions with the CSA. And it was clear that this plan was made without any thought to Canada’s soccer-development needs.

We were never at the table, and yet MLS and USL decided to create a plan that was square-pegged-into-a-round-hole on our Canadian teams.

The CSA has stuck to its guns. Because, to get that sanctioning, it’s clear that the USL has given itself very little room for negotiation. But this is what happens — and frankly, what you deserve — when you leave a key player out of the room when the deal was first hatched.

The USL-MLS deal was hatched with the same kind of arrogance we see when Commissioner Don Garber refers to “American” development and MMLS as an “American” league in his public announcements. Really, the PR department needs to set up a sort-of swear jar for the execs; every time they talk about MLS in an American-only context, they have to drop some change in. By the end of the year, they might have enough for a G5.

We see that arrogance everywhere where MLS discussed. Heck, even the promotion-relegation proponents won’t discuss how a system would work in regards to the fact that you have two national associations. What happens in a year when two Canadian teams are slated to be promoted and two American teams go down? Or vice versa? Or do Canadian teams only replace Canadian teams?

Maybe if Canada had been in on the ground floor of the USL-MLS discussions, there wouldn’t have been need for a retrofitted solution. No matter what, we can be refreshed that our domestic soccer policy is being separated from the grasp of USSF head Sunil Gulati. If CSA reform will lead us to being able to make our own rules for our own clubs — and not trying to get small concessions from USSF policy — it’s a win for us.

We can see the Canadian national team’s performance since we’ve been involved in MLS. Pretty dire. It’s a scathing indictment of what having the U.S. tell us what to do will do to our soccer program.


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  1. yankiboy

    September 8, 2014 at 1:09 am

    ^Yeah, the arrogance of those pesky Canucks, with their sovereign football federation having the nerve to actually try to control something related to the sport inside their own borders.

    How dare they?!? Just who do they think that they are?!?

    Whoah, Bro–just a differing perspective: Apparently, MLS thought that they did need the Canucks when they decided to bring in THREE Canadian franchises. One more than MLB or the NBA brought in. Three more than the NFL has to date (but hey–Do we REALLY know what the future holds for the Bills???)

    I don’t think that MLS did it for charity purposes.

    NASL is in Canada because they believe it to be to their benefit.

    The USL has enjoyed taking fistfuls of Canadian dollars over the years. I don’t see them ready to turn down W-League or PDL money.

    Maybe they will decide that they don’t want the looneys but hey, they previously took happily cash from Puerto Rico, Bermuda and Antigua and dealt with those federations.

    So you’re right about no one having to bring the Canadian franchises into their leagues but you appear wrong about whether or not their is value in doing so under the right set of circumstances…

    Of course, you could have written your above comments with the most sublime sarcasm and it went over my head.

    Which would leave me looking very, very silly right about now (not the first time, nor the last…)

  2. Lee Wills

    September 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Why would this be a big deal to MLS? It doesn’t effect the US based teams. If the CSA wants 100% Canadian players have at. I believe that USLPro doesn’t have to admit the Canadian teams if they don’t want to.

  3. footy

    September 7, 2014 at 6:52 am

    It’s hardly a price to pay now is it? In fact, they are development teams, so this quota would only mean they would serve their purpose.

  4. Captain CANADA

    September 7, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Great analysis of this situation Steve

    MLS is an American league, developed to advance the interests of American soccer.

    what we have is three American franchises stationed in Canada, sucking up Canadian dollars and funneling them down to the US of A to keep growing their game. When a Canadian city hosts an international friendly promoted by Soccer United Marketing, those dollars are being funnelled back to the US. the USSF gets a bigger cut than the CSA does.

    These American franchises situated in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have no vested interest in growing Canadian soccer. In fact, having Canadian Internationals on their rosters is largely viewed as a nuisance. These 3 soccer businesses exists to maximize profit (which they are quite mediocred at) try to sell lots of tickets and hopefully sell on a few players once in a while. No problem with that but let’s not pretend that they are anything but shareholders in that American House League known as MLS, They will never be the solution to the development of a strong men’s national team.

    With that rant out of the way, I could not be happier to see the CSA fully flex its muscles on this USL Pro issue. Next step should be to work with the Canadian government to make it more difficult for foreign players to play for the MLS 1st teams. implement similar restrictions as what exists in the UK for issuing visas to foreign footballers. if TFC, Montreal or Vancouver want to bring in some US college grad, make them prove, through a labour market opinion, that this guy’s job can’t be done by an equivalently qualified Canadian.

    Hell, there isn’t relegation so its not like these franchises risk being dropped to a lower league. It will force them to find quality foreign players who meet the criteria for a work visa and then have them surrounded by Canadians who will grow and develop.

    Will they lose more in the short run? yup. do i care? nope.

    This is what happens when you have scoundrels like Bob Lenarduzzi going behind the CSA’s back to undermine Canadian quotas. you reap what you sow. Montreal and Vancouver are quite transparent for their disrespect and disdain for the CSA and its role in developing our national teams, TFC is only slightly better. Time to return the favour and put them in their place. This USL Pro quota decision is hopefully just one tiny part of what should be a much larger strategy to rebalance the relationship and put canadian interests first.

  5. Seathanaich

    September 7, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Thank you for sharing this – interesting.

  6. Mark

    September 6, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    A similar situation can be found in Major League Baseball, also having a sole Canadian team, and is in no way shape or form considered anything but an American league with a Canadian team competing in it.

    the CSA ceding that they don’t have a domestic league as high quality as MLS so appointing the US domestic league as their top tier through participation of Canadian teams does not make it a bi-national league. it retains its status as a US domestic league that the CSA has piggybacked on, the same as welsh teams and the welsh governing body piggybacking on the English Premier League. the EPL is no more a bi-national league than MLS is.

    this fact most clearly defines MLS as a US league in FIFA’s eyes: Canadian teams can not qualify for CCCL by winning MLS cup as US teams can because the MLS cup is considered by FIFA to be a US domestic cup. they can only gain entrance through the Canadian championship. if MLS was recognized as being even in part a Canadian league, the Canadian teams would be able to qualify for FIFA club competitions through the MLS cup and the Supporters Shield.

    the CSA does not and can not make any decisions about the organization and running of MLS. the USSF does.

    the CSA does not collect dues from the league, including monies for the Canadian teams. The CSA receives no money from MLS. the USSF does.

    the USSF is the sole governing body.

    Major League Soccer, L.L.C. is incorporated in the state of NY as a United States corporation with its headquarters located at 420 5th Ave. New York, NY 10018. It does not have any articles of incorporation in Canada, nor does it exist on any level as a Canadian corporation.

    FIFA recognizes MLS as a US league. Approval was sought by the USSF from FIFA, to allow a Canadian team to join the US league, which was granted. At no time was authorization sought, nor granted, to have a bi-national league. It retains the exact same US domestic status it had for the many years prior to adding the first Canadian team.

    MLS is not, has never been, and will never be a Canadian league in part or in whole.

    • Steven Sandor

      September 6, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      MLB is not a great example, as there is no need for the Blue Jays to be registered with a national baseball federation.

      FIFA does not determine how a nation determines its champion. Its national association does. As I mentioned in an earlier reply, Canada’s CONCACAF Champions League qualifier will, for 2015, be determined by the highest-ranked Canadian MLS team in 2014, not by its Cup. It will revert back to the Cup in coming years. But it shows that a national body, in this case the CSA, determines a how to crown a champion. If it so desired, CSA could create a bylaw that stated if a Canadian team won MLS Cup, it could be the automatic CCL rep for this country.

      How many MLS teams/US Open Cup teams qualify for American CCL spots is purely the domain of the USSF.

  7. Mark

    September 6, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    you seem to be confused. MLS is not a north american league, it is an american league with a few canadian sides. just like MLB is an american league with a canadian team.

    once you accept the reality of the situation, you will probably be less frustrated.

    • Steven Sandor

      September 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      But the Canadian teams in MLS are sanctioned by the CSA, which puts them under the wing of the Canadian authorities. MLS is officially recognized as Div. 1 in Canada at the moment.

      • Soccerfan

        September 6, 2014 at 8:41 pm

        Okay Steve, what exactly does that mean?

        • Steven Sandor

          September 6, 2014 at 10:33 pm

          It means that the CSA determines what is our top-tanked league and how teams qualify for the CCL. For example, we know that the Voyageurs Cup will NOT determine next year’s CCL participant. That will go to the top-ranked Canadian MLS team in 2014, to accommodate moving the VC to a late-summer date. The CSA sanctions Div. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4… up to 8,000 or 80,0000 if it wants.

          To accommodate previous expansions of American leagues, like the old USL A-League, PDL, MLS and NASL, the CSA has acted co-operatively with the USSF. But the Canadian teams in those leagues must be recognized by the CSA.

          • Soccerfan

            September 7, 2014 at 3:51 am

            So really the CSA do nothing!! Is my tax payers money going to them? I hope not. You are telling me we need the CSA to determine which teams participate in the CCL. What is the alternative? Which other teams from Canada would possibly participate in the CCL? If we did not send the MLS, any other teams would get spanked. These guys are a joke and the thought of them putting together a bid for the men’s world cup is a absurd. You say the blue jays are a bad example. How? WE DONT NEED THE CSA to determine that MLS should be represented in the CCL. There is no freakin alternative. Fools.

  8. Bob Dobalina

    September 6, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    As a Whitecaps fan, I couldn’t care less about how good the reserves do in USL-Pro. It is a minor league. As long as more Canadians get first team opportunities and improve enough to make the jump to a higher quality league, I’m good with it. I doubt the CSA will ever change that requirement for USL-Pro.

  9. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    September 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Having a quota means inferior immigrant Canucks will take up roster spots which will inhibit their USL Pro clubs. The arrogance of the CSA thinking they can dictate to the USA soccer how to run their league…..USL Pro and MLS do not need any teams north of the border, they are leagues designed to advance the game in America and to meet profit goals set by MLS, so let the third div be their reserve league and hope NASL slides in with a Canuck division where no ridiculous quotas will impede any club’s peogress and overall skill

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