The CSA is requiring that Canadian MLS reserve teams in USL Pro are at least half Canadian, and they couldn’t be more right.
Earlier this week on The 24th Minute Duane Rollins reported that the Canadian Soccer Association has set high domestic player quotas for the three reserve teams that Canada’s Major League Soccer franchises are entering into USL Pro. Half of the active team roster, as well as six of eleven starters, will have to be players eligible for the Canadian national team.
With the ostensible reason for these USL Pro teams being the young Canadian talent our MLS franchises have failed to integrate into the first team, you’d expect the MLS sides to accept this without a complaint. And, so far, they pretty much have. (Score one for the bright side of life!) Vancouver is still pushing the New Westminster scheme hard, the Montreal Impact just announced their own USL Pro team, and Toronto FC seems to be moving forward with their plans. Obviously the franchises knew this was coming. It’s enough to almost make you believe the life of a Canadian soccer fan isn’t uniformly terrible.
Naturally some fans of MLS organizations aren’t as calm as the organizations themselves. The comments of Rollins’ post are filled with the usual. I look at my Twitter feed and this is being framed in “club versus country” terms like every other discussion that combines the words “Canadian” and “soccer”. It’s gotten a shade repetitive, and long ago became the sort of argument that ceased to persuade anyone ever.
How often have you heard the club-first people scoff “well, why doesn’t the Canadian Soccer Association do something to make the men’s national team relevant, anyway?” with the “pssh” and the “pfft” of the supporter dismissing Canada in favour of the accomplished winners that are our MLS teams. Well, the Canadian Soccer Association has done something! “Okay,” they’ve said “you guys want to put yet more teams in yet another American league and you’re saying you’re going to develop Canadian talent, then we’re going to hold you to that.”
When the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact joined Toronto FC in Major League Soccer, the CSA made a mistake that’s set Canadian soccer back years: it trusted the MLS group. The Whitecaps had given Canadian players over 10,000 minutes every season in the USL First Division, Montreal was behind but still not bad, and Toronto FC was making all the right noises. Bob Lenarduzzi wanted no quota at all, saying the Whitecaps should produce enough quality players to make one irrelevant, so the CSA compromised with an extremely low requirement for three domestic players, including Canadian citizens ineligible for our national team.
As a result the number of Canadians playing professional soccer in their home country has declined precipitously. Whatever the intentions of Toronto FC or Vancouver or Montreal, in the real world they’ve found it easier to draft American NCAA players and sign imports for a season and a half rather than buck the MLS model and build around Canadian talent. With young players not able to get anywhere in Canada, and potentially talented veterans leaving the professional game in despair so they can raise families and play for Edmonton Scottish, the Canadian men’s national team has never been worse.
We know that hopes and aspirations aren’t good enough when you’re dealing with MLS, so the CSA is forcing them to do the right thing. It’s a pity that it’s necessary, but we’ve seen that it is. Clearly the people with the money, the Vancouverites and Montrealers and Torontonians, don’t think this is a deal-breaker (I mean, half these reserve teams can still be foreign; that’s more than enough for all your NCAA scrubs). And the fans who don’t care about developing Canadian players will whine, but let them: these are literally the last people on Earth the Canadian Soccer Association should answer to.
 — Rollins, Duane. “CSA requires strict Canadian quotas for USL-Pro sanctioning.” The 24th Minute, September 4, 2014. Accessed September 6, 2014. http://www.canadiansoccernews.com/index.php?/page/articles.html/_/24th-minute/csa-requires-strict-canadian-quotas-for-usl-pro-sanctioning-r4815.
 — Tremblay, Olivier. “Montreal USL Pro team.” ImpactMontreal.com, September 4, 2014. Accessed September 6, 2014. http://www.impactmontreal.com/en/news/2014/09/montreal-usl-pro-team.
 — Rollins, Duane. “USL-Pro to Vaughan for 2015?” The 24th Minute, September 5, 2014. Accessed September 6, 2014. http://www.canadiansoccernews.com/index.php?/page/articles.html/_/24th-minute/usl-pro-to-vaughan-for-2015-r4817.
 — Lenarduzzi, Bob, and Jim Taylor. Bob Lenarduzzi: A Canadian Soccer Story. Vancouver: Harbour Publishing, 2011, p190-191.
 — Massey, Benjamin. “Canadian Domestic Content Before and In the MLS Era.” Maple Leaf Forever!, February 14, 2014. Accessed September 6, 2014. http://www.maple-leaf-forever.com/2014/02/14/canadian-domestic-content-before-and-in-the-mls-era/.