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Northern Exposure: Canadian Premier League players attempt to form a union

Alphonso Davies signs a new deal, CanPL players form a union, and MLS launches a new youth development league. Here’s your weekly Canada Soccer news wrap up.

CPL: Canadian Premier League Finals
Cavalry FC goalkeeper Marco Carducci (1) makes a save on a penalty kick against Forge FC in the first half of a Canadian Premier League soccer final match.
(Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports for CPL)

Alphonso Davies inks new deal

Rising Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies reached another important landmark in his young career signing a 5 year deal with Bundesliga team Bayern Munich. The deal will go through until 2025 when Davies will only be 24 years old. This recent Waking The Red article by Jeffrey Nester takes a closer look at Phonzie’s new deal and the reactions to the signing.

Michael Bradley showing injury progress

Thirteen weeks ago Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley underwent ankle surgery to address loose cartilage fragments in his right ankle from an injury he sustained in last year’s MLS Cup Final in Seattle. If there is any silver lining to this whole league postponement it could be that TFC did not have to play without their field general.

Michael says that his rehab has been progressing well. According to Bradley, “I haven’t missed a beat, so that part’s been great.” With estimates for his return being in late May and the MLS suspending games until at least June 8 there is a good chance that the American international will not miss any further games assuming there is a 2020 season.

CPL players form a union

A new union has been established in Canada to represent CPL players. After not having a union during the first year of the league there was a lot of talk about whether or not the players would eventually organize and create one. All the speculation was put to rest last week when the Professional Footballers Association Canada (PFACan) was publicly announced. According to their website PFACan is creating player-centred policy to support the development of players and the game of football in Canada.

Although to some people the optics of this situation could be perceived as the players responding to a 25% deferral of their salaries by the league, it should be noted that the creation of a players union really isn’t anything other than the regular product of an evolving new sports league. Players unions exist in many sports leagues all over the world and the CPL is no different. Perhaps the league’s decision to defer wages sped up the process but it was bound to happen sooner or later.

MLS Launches new youth development league

It happened so fast that if you blinked you probably missed it. On April 15 the US Soccer Federation (USSF) announced it was folding its youth Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) which was quickly followed up by another announcement a few hours later that MLS was launching a new elite youth competition platform.

Although the details of this new competition platform haven’t been released yet, the decisions made by the USSF will have an effect on Canada. As it stands right now there are three Canadian MLS teams that had youth development teams playing in the USSDA. Whether these teams will continue playing in the US within this new MLS development league or return home to play in youth development leagues as part of the larger Canadian soccer pyramid (or some combination of the two) remains to be seen.

The Soccer Today! podcast recently recorded a couple of episodes covering this topic. In the first episode following the announcement of the cancellation of the USSDA Travis Clark from Top Drawer Soccer tried to shed light on to what was happening. The next day Soccer Today! recorded another episode (starting to 20:00) following the announcement of the new MLS youth development platform. Both episodes are helpful if you are someone who is trying to wrap your head around this situation.

Former PLSQ player signs with Cavalry FC

Speaking of developing young players, a big congratulations goes to Mohamed Farsi for the recent signing to CPL team Cavalry FC. The 20 year old who played for AS Blainville was a top prospect in the Première ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ) for some time. After a successful trial with Cavalry they made the decision to add him to their roster.

Mohamed is another example of an impressive pool of players who have entered the CPL after being developed by teams playing in semi-professional provincial leagues. The PLSQ in Quebec and League 1 Ontario in Ontario act as feeder leagues for higher level domestic leagues such as the CPL and eventually international leagues such as MLS. These semi-professional leagues bridge the gap between youth development leagues and fully professional leagues thereby creating a pathway for players.

British Columbia is currently in the process of setting up a league similar to PLSQ and League 1 Ontario. The prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) could either each have their own semi-professional provincial leagues, or they could all get together to form one large regional league. The Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island) could do the same depending of what works best for them. How the Canadian MLS academy and youth development teams will fit into this pathway is still yet to be determined but hopefully the MLS structure can dovetail with the larger Canadian soccer pyramid in some way.