When Major League Soccer came to Canada in 2007 it was important for the development of soccer in this country. It meant stadiums, academies, and tons of infrastructure that had not previously existed. It meant Canadian soccer players had a chance to play and develop their game at a high level in their home country.
Well... some Canadian players. It's been the better part of a decade since Canada and MLS first partnered in the creation of Toronto FC, and the limits of this relationship are being called into question. When it became apparent that MLS wasn't going to allow Canadian players domestic status on American teams, it was clear Canada needed to search for other options.
Today, Duane Rollins of Canadian Soccer News is reporting that Canada will have its own league as soon as 2017. This has long been speculated, but today marks the first time any sort of substantial details or confirmation has been published.
It is no secret that Canada is going to put together a bid for the 2026 World Cup, and having a domestic league is an important step in that equation. In 2013 Canada cut ties with the Canadian Soccer League, which at the time was the national league, and for good reason considering a match fixing scandal with which it was associated.
Since then there has been a vacancy in terms of a national league, something that is desperately required by Canada if the country wants to start working its way up the FIFA rankings.
Previous to today's report most of the details around the national league have existed in rumours, including the fact that the new league would be formed in partnership with the NASL. Rollins' report says that while this was considered, the NASL will not be part of the new league.
Waking the Red has reported that Hamilton could announce an NASL expansion team as soon as next month, and NASL commissioner Bill Peterson has been vocal about the fact that he wants at least two teams in the near future north of the border.
Instead, it appears as though Canada would be looking to create an 8-10 league team of their own. The locations of these teams have not yet been reported, although it was made clear that ownership groups from all over the country are interested.
Rollins does report that the CFL is involved, which isn't surprising considering the vast majority of stadiums across the country are football stadium and they are the biggest and most successful Canadian pro sports league in existence.
If this is true it is a smart move from the Canadian Soccer Association, why not partner with the best and let them help you replicate their successful product?
It goes without saying that this news is incredibly positive for the development of soccer in this country. Canada has already reaped the benefits of League 1 Ontario after just one and a bit years of existence. Having a league further up the pyramid would only bring that success closer to the senior national team.
National leagues have never truly been successful in this country, but with soccer's booming popularity there's no time like the present to see if that trend can be stopped. If it can it means soccer is stronger in this country than most suspected.
Hosting the World Cup in 1994 was surely a massive step for the development of soccer in the United States. But it is the creation of Major League Soccer that has seen that development grow and flourish more than a decade later.
Similarly, hosting the World Cup would do wonders for the popularity and exposure of Canadian soccer. But it is a national league that would insure this country reaches its soccer potential.