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Double standards confuse Canadians

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For a young player, the developmental ladder should be simple process to comprehend. You start on a youth team, and then work your way up toward the senior squad.

There are rungs in between — “B” squads, reserve teams, teams in affiliated lower leagues — but it should be pretty straightforward. If you’re good enough, you move up.

But the USL and MLS have created a frustrating dual standard. It’s been well documented in these pages and in our sister website, The11.ca.

Canadians in MLS (and NASL, too) who play for American teams are treated as international players. Meanwhile, American players on Canadian teams are domestics. But, in the USL, which has many teams affiliated with MLS parent clubs, Canadians are treated as domestics league-wide. No matter if he plays for one of the three Canadian USL teams or any of the American squads, a Canadian USL player does not occupy a coveted international roster spot.

Because of this, we have seen an explosion in the number of jobs for Canadians in USL. As of mid-June, more than 80 Canadians had appeared in USL games this season.

Yes, the Canadian clubs are mandated by the Canadian Soccer Association to have a high percentage of Canadian players. But, we’re also seeing a spike in Canadians signed by the American USL clubs. Swope Park Rangers have four. The Rochester Rhinos have three, as does Orlando City’s B side. You’ll find two Canadians on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. A Canadian keeper — John Smits — is the everyday No. 1 for the Wilmington Hammerheads.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN PLASTIC PITCH #9

But this has created a glass ceiling between the two leagues. As outlined by Steve Brisendine on his piece on the four Canadians at Swope Park Rangers, the players aren’t sure of their future. Their club is affiliated with Sporting Kansas City, but they understand their pathway to move up — even if they play well — is anything but straightforward. They count as domestic players for Swope Park Rangers, but would take up international spots if called up to the parent club.

The fact that USL and MLS had very different roster rules when it came to Canadians used to be confusing. But now that the two leagues are closely knit because of their affiliation agreement, the double standard in how Canadians are treated is infuriating.

USL managers have shown us that American clubs will take chances on Canadian players, just the same way Canadian managers will take fliers on some American prospects. But what we can’t have is a one set of rules for the parent league and another set of rules for its affiliated developmental league. It smacks of hypocrisy.

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