Home MLS More MLS Time for Canadian soccer supporters to be… optimistic?

Time for Canadian soccer supporters to be… optimistic?

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It feels like we are in a weirdly optimistic time for Canadian soccer.

Next week, the Montreal Impact will likely fill Olympic Stadium for the first leg of its MLS Eastern Conference final against Toronto FC.

Former Toronto FC and Brighton and Hove Albion exec Paul Beirne (and my former neighbour) is currently moving around the country drumming up support for the planned-for-2018 Canadian Premier League.

And, the Canadian Soccer Association confirmed to me yesterday that everything is on schedule when it comes to finding a “solution” to the Canadians-as-domestics issue in MLS. In September, Canadian Soccer Association and CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said that his “confidence was high” that the issue of how Canadians are treated in MLS would be resolved by the time MLS Cup came around. That decision would also spill over into NASL.

In both MLS and NASL, Canadians and Americans do not take up international roster spots on the Canadian-based clubs. But it’s not reciprocated on the American teams; on the U.S. based rosters, Canadians are considered imports, while Americans, of course, are domestics. This has created a system where very few Canadians get chances to play on American MLS or NASL teams, while Americans are welcome at our doors. What has consistently infuriated the Canadian Soccer Association is that the USL has always allowed Canadians to be domestics.

As well, through subsidies granted by the CSA, the NWSL has guaranteed a minimum of 16 spots for Canadian players — and that league is entirely U.S. based. Canada has not always taken advantage of all of the rosters spots, and has chosen to subsidize fewer positions over the last few seasons — but the point is, an agreement was made to benefit all sides.

So, a Canadian League, a Canadian team guaranteed to play in MLS Cup and a possible end to discrimination against Canadian players by American teams?

The cynic in me — and if you’ve been around Canadian soccer for longer than five minutes, how can you not be a cynic — can’t believe all of these things are going forward.

Will this Eastern final be the lightning rod to make Canadian MLS teams a decent TV property going forward? Will the Canadian League find owners willing to lose a lot of money over several years for the greater good, sponsors willing to get in from the ground floor and a way to get games to a national fan base via stream or TV? Will there be a last-second wrench thrown into a roster deal?

Time will tell. But maybe it’s time to be hopeful. Maybe the building blocks will be there for World Cups in 2022 and 2026 (the 2026 one, which, possibly, wink wink, might not need Canada to bother with qualification).

Right now, it feels like after years of screaming into the void, finally someone has answered back. Feeling optimistic, like those insurance commercials narrated by Michael J. Fox. 

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