Home Canadian Premier League CanPL News and Notes The players speak: Canadian pros open up about what they want to see out of the CanPL

The players speak: Canadian pros open up about what they want to see out of the CanPL


By the end of the month, Canadian Premier League coaches will have gathered to discuss some of the technical issues that come with launching a new league. Salary cap, player acquisition mechanisms, those all must be decided.

The league has portrayed itself as being the champion of the independent-club model, and promises a promotion-relegation system will come when the number of pro teams in Canada dictates that it should happen. But, at the same time, there’s an understanding that starting a league from scratch isn’t easy, and there has to be some sort of competitive balance.

So, The 11 reached out to Canadians playing throughout the world to ask them: What would bring them back to Canada to play? How much would they expect to make? What advantages are there in coming back home? What disadvantages are there to coming back home? All the players contacted have significant professional experience, whether it’s in USL, NASL, MLS or Europe. 

If there’s a common theme we heard from the players, it’s that they’re excited that a Canadian Premier League is about to kick off. But they also want owners and administrators to understand that there are some challenges ahead, and there is a worry that, as the CanPL is a brand-new league, that other teams around the world might think that a Canadian player is giving up on an international career by going home and playing in the fledgling circuit. There is a fear of losing work status in the United States, which could hurt MLS prospects in the future. There is a fear that once the European door is closed, it can’t be opened again.

We offered the players who participated anonymity; we understand that they’re under contracts to other teams right now; they can’t be openly talking about playing in the CanPL or being interested in the new league. What follows is their thoughts about the possibility of playing in the new CanPL.


Are you willing to play in ANY CanPL city? Or will you only come back if you have some power over where you go?

One player currently in Europe told us that he’s willing to play in his home province (which has multiple teams). Another Canadian playing in Europe told us he’s willing to play anywhere. Another, with NASL experience said: “I would prefer staying at home, but I’m willing to go somewhere else if the money is right.”

From another player who has played in USL, MLS and NASL: “I’d like to have some power over where I’d like to play. I understand the need to make sure all the teams have enough initial quality and experience to compete, but it doesn’t make sense if I were to come back to play out in Halifax. Although with (Stephen) Hart being out there, maybe!”

“Of course I would love to choose where I play. But if you look at North America system, there isn’t very much there, is there. There are three teams I would love to play for, and if I can get to one of those teams that would be an enticement for me to come to play in Canada.”

Many of the players stated that they wouldn’t shut the door on playing on the East Coast, but they’d  need more money to play in Halifax, because of the travel and the fact they’d be a great distance from their families.

How much is travel a concern?

“Travel is not a big issue, but we must be in opposition city the day before.”

“Travel does not concern me, I am used to it.”

“Can’t be worse than my last three years, so no not a concern.”

“Well if you’ve played MLS, NASL or USL I think you can understand the travel distances. Flying has to happen, so as long as teams can fly out two days before for the long distance games, Victoria to Halifax for example, then I think that is fine. Big concern is how many players will have the mental capacity to do that and perform. It takes a while to develop that ability and keep quality high.”

“Travel is not an issue. I’m used to travelling the world.”

Is there a line in the sand where the money isn’t enough to make you leave USL or Europe or another league?

“I would say minimum salary for me would be CDN $40k, plus accommodation provided, to leave Europe. My next contract offer this year if I made the first team (at my European club)  would be more so I am willing to compromise to play CPL.”

“35-45K is fair.”

“I would say no to anything under 5k a month.”

“Yes there are many offers I’d say no to. Anything below 75k Canadian I’d not consider. It has to be able to compete with U.S. or European offers to attract good, experienced pros to make the league have some validity. An example for myself is my green-card situation, if I were to sign a long-term deal up there in the future, I’d have to make sure I get the right paperwork in place to keep (the green card) because if I am out of the U.S. too long, I can lose it. There is also the issue of not having much credit history in Canada for many guys.” (Because so many Canadians leave to play abroad when they’re young, their credit histories are foreign).

“I’ve read the average salary is going to be $40,000 to 60,000. That’s a good starting point. For me, the line in the sand is upward on the average. If CPL wants to compete with MLS down the road, which they’ve said they want to do, there is room to grow.”

Do you expect contracts to be guaranteed? How do you hope option years will be handled?

(Those who took the survey were unanimous in stating that contracts need to be guaranteed for experienced players. There’s significant risk for a player to leave USL or Europe for the CanPL, and they would want to see that faith rewarded with guaranteed deals.)

“Yes. Guaranteed contract plus bonus for appearances and wins like in Europe. Would expect two-year deal, straight or 1+1 option.”

“Yes, guaranteed contracts. No waivers or pre-season cuts once the contract is agreed.”

“I would expect contracts to be guaranteed. In the league that will be deemed as professional and tier-one in Canada, it is important for player to have security, especially if he is coming back to Canada from places like Europe.”

“Guaranteed contracts are great and I think necessary to attract players, too. Now they could offer 10 to 15 guaranteed deals and 10 semi-guaranteed or whatever, just as MLS does, but again I don’t know how many players per roster and what the budgets look like. Option years should be discussed but clubs like to protect themselves with the team having the ability to keep a player’s option or not. I think more experienced guys will have the ability to have an opt-in or opt-out clause. Big advantage for CPL is national healthcare. It’s shocking that USL does not offer medical insurance for players. I was livid when I heard that. My private insurance costs me a boatload!”

“I would assume everything would be guaranteed, just like the NASL. There is risk, stepping into the unknown. We don’t know what league will actually be, or who will be playing in it.” (This player added that he’d like to ensure that there isn’t a clause where a team can stop paying a player on a two-year contract after the off-season of season one, which he’s seen happen in other leagues.)

Any other concerns you have about the CanPL?

I am interested to see the types of practice facilities that will be available to teams. For example, both Edmonton and Calgary have indoor facilities that can be utilized for training in preseason because the weather will still surely be very cold. Along with facilities will come the physio and doctor’s team — I am interested to see how that will pan out.”

“Only concern for me is playing standard of the league; Would it be comparable with a tier 1/2/3 league in Europe or more NCAA level?”

“A salary cap under a million is a bit worrying. I’m hoping you can’t get traded just like in the MLS.” (Pacific FC owner Dean Shillington indicated to Business in Vancouver that he wants the cap to be under $1 million)

“I don’t know too much else about the league. A few have expressed that the CPL could be a league for older guys to retire into and if younger guys such as my age were to take contracts there, it may be like a death sentence to any potential upward movement that they may want going forward. People also want a competitive and quality league right off the bat and that may not happen if investment isn’t there and you need the right group of guys with a mentality to build for the future.”

“I’m very concerned about how late they’re leaving this. I’m sitting here and want to get started already. I’m waiting on hold for something to happen. University seasons are already starting. A lot of European teams have already started, so players can’t leave things right now.”

(Basically, players are already being asked by USL or European clubs if they are going to commit for next season. Players who are unattached need to be finding trials and offers.. They simply can’t wait much longer for the Canadian Premier League to begin its player acquisition process. There’s only so long that they can hold out before they decide they need to commit to other options.)

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One Comment

  1. Ian

    August 15, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Great article Steve, and interesting to see the survey results, a sense of numbers and considerations the players deal with. Very enlightening. Also stresses the need to get things moving on this front. I’m sure it’ll be useful input to the teams in upcoming planning sessions.

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