Anyone who has been involved in soccer in Canada has probably got some idea that the governance structure has long been in need of change, that Canada needs to improve the way it develops elite players, and there needs to be better training for coaches and other support staff. On Thursday morning, the Canadian Soccer Association presented their strategic plan for 2014-2018 which is intended to guide the country in addressing those major concerns and more.
The document, entitled "Leading a Soccer Nation", is built around four main points of focus. Those key areas were arrived at by the CSA after talking to those connected to the game in this country. The CSA sought the input of thousands of players, parents, fans, coaches, officials, sponsors, vendors, and media before putting this plan together. That input led them to focus on these four key points:
1. Invest in technical leadership by supporting our players, coaches and officials at all levels of the sport.
2. Ensure consistent, world-class performances by our National Teams.
3. Encourage and oversee the growth of the game in our country.
4. Govern the game in Canada professionally in collaboration with our partners.
The full plan is certainly worth reading for anyone interested in digging deep into how the CSA plans to move the game forward in Canada. (To access the PDF version click here) It lays out the vision that should dictate all the decisions that are made in the next four years but for that to happen the fourth point may prove to be the most important.
Having a plan is nice but putting it in action is a lot harder to achieve. For this plan to be worth more than the paper it was printed on the CSA will have to get the provinces and territories on board with what they are trying to do here. Continued reform of the governance of the game in this country is the only way that this plan is going to be successful and that will potentially mean the CSA having to get tough with a number of provincial associations to get them on the same page.
The goals in the document are ambitious as the hope is to turn Canada into a country that is a consistent contender in all of the various incarnations of the World Cup. Canada are already in the top 5% of FIFA member nations when it comes to qualifying for World Cup events but there is still room to improve as Canada has not made the main event in quite some time.
It is that main event that will likely grab the majority of the headlines coming out of today's presentation. One of the bullet points in the presentation was the fact that the CSA intends to prepare and submit a bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. They will have until 2018 to prepare that bid and intend to use their hosting experience for the 2007 U-20 World Cup and they upcoming 2014 U-20 Women's World Cup and the 2015 Women's World Cup to bolster that bid to show that Canada is capable of hosting FIFA events at any level. Part of that plan includes setting records for attendance and television viewership the next two years like they did with the 2007 event.
If bidding for the World Cup is what takes the headlines it is far from the most important part of this plan. Things like the continued push towards developing elite-level, semi-professional regional leagues, continued governance reform, and a national curriculum are far more important in terms of shaping the future of Canadian soccer.
If you are interested in the future of the sport in this country it is worth taking the few minutes required to read the PDF version of today's presentation and getting familiar with what the CSA laid out in their plan. After you have done that let us know what you think about the direction they are hoping to lead us in over the next four years.