Different teams have different approaches in the league in regards to their development and youth systems. FC Dallas draws their success from playing their young Americans, as well as integrating a few South American attackers into their first team. Atlanta United has so far gone all-out and decided to splash the cash on big-name young South Americans, while giving very little playing time to their local boys. Either way, both of these techniques have achieved some success over the years.
In this article, I will be looking at the three Canadian MLS teams and analyzing which team is the most Canadian and locally-made. Since Toronto FC was founded in 2006 and began playing in 2007, Canadian soccer has developed greatly for the better. Two more MLS teams have since been introduced since then, first the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2009, then the Montreal Impact in 2010. Although these three teams have certainly developed their fair share of Canadians in the past, I think it would be good to see who currently holds the title of the most locally-made and Canadian team in MLS. There are many factors to determining this, so this can be a hotly contested debate.
I believe the first statistic that you have to look at, one of the more simplistic ones, is how many Canadians are on each club’s first team roster?
Montreal Impact: 9
Toronto FC: 10
Vancouver Whitecaps: 8
TFC narrowly beats Montreal in this category as the Reds have 10 players on their first team from Canada, while Montreal has nine, and Vancouver has eight Canadians on their team.
Another statistic you can look at to determine who is more locally made, is who has the most footballers from their respective province?
Montreal Impact (QC): 6
Toronto FC (ON): 9
Vancouver Whitecaps (BC): 3
Toronto FC also top this one with nine players coming from their respective province, beating Montreal’s six. The Vancouver Whitecaps are significantly lower with three. I think it is important to consider when looking at this statistic that there is a clear advantage for Toronto FC, as they are in a province of 13.6 million people, compared with Québec at 8.2 million and British Colombia at only 4.6 million. So teams like TFC should be having the most players from their respective province out of the three Canadian MLS teams, as Ontario is the biggest province in Canada (by population) by a fairly large margin. I suppose this statistic shows how perhaps Vancouver may have expanded their scouting network out a bit further into other Canadian provinces than Toronto and Montreal may have.
We saw how many players on each Canadian team are from their team’s respective province, but how many players’ hometowns are their team’s city?
Montreal Impact: 2
Toronto FC: 3
Vancouver Whitecaps: 0
I think if you looked at the previous set of stats, these results aren’t much of a surprise. Montreal is fairly close with Toronto just like they were in the previous category, and Vancouver has no players from Vancouver because they only have three footballers from British Colombia in the first place. It is also good to take into context that Toronto is the most populous city in Canada, with Montreal second, then Vancouver in third. With all of these statistics you always have to think of the true context around their number.
An interesting point about Toronto FC is how many players from Brampton they have. They have three, which is the same amount of players TFC has from Toronto! Jay Chapman, Ayo Akinola and Jonathan Osorio are the three who came from Brampton. To add onto this soccer hotspot, former Toronto FC player Doneil Henry (who now plays for Vancouver) and Besiktas striker Cyle Larin (formerly of Orlando City) both grew up in Brampton as well. It appears that Brampton, a city of 600,000 people, is producing Canada’s next generation of footballers!
In case any of you reading are interested in the number of Americans playing for each respective team, here are the numbers:
Montreal Impact: 6
Toronto FC: 12
Vancouver Whitecaps: 6
Here there is a vast difference of approaches to the number of Americans on each roster. Although Americans (along with Canadians) don’t count as international players on MLS rosters, Montreal and Vancouver have taken a different approach. They actually only have six American footballers playing for their team which is extremely small for any MLS team. In fact, even though I haven’t looked at the other MLS teams’ rosters as much, Montreal and Vancouver probably have two of the least American rosters in the league. On the other hand, Toronto has just under the total of American footballers on both Montréal and Vancouver combined, at 12. Toronto, of course, have a couple (former?) USMNT stars in Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, as well as up-and-coming USMNT goalkeeper, Alex Bono.
Now looking at squad registrations on MLSsoccer.com, we can see how local each Canadian MLS team truly is by looking at their number of international players and their number of homegrown players.
Montreal Impact: 9 internationals, 4 homegrown
Toronto FC: 7 internationals, 5 homegrown
Vancouver Whitecaps: 9 internationals, 4 homegrown
While the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps are tied with nine internationals and four homegrown players, it is quite obvious that Toronto is clearly more local from this perspective since they have one less international player, and one more homegrown player. Vancouver Whitecaps FC surprised me slightly in this area, because I thought they had a lot more youngsters that have developed as homegrown players at their club, but I guess not.
An interesting point here is that five of Montreal’s players are actually from France. It seems as if the Montreal Impact are making a conscious effort to keep French-speaking players in their first team, which is certainly an interesting effort to make. Even perhaps a much more lenient spin on Chivas Guadalajara’s Mexican-only policy, or Athletic Bilbao’s Basque-only policy. It is quite intriguing to see how efforts are made even in MLS to keep certain culture consistently instilled in a club’s culture.
These three Canadian teams can boast about how Canadian a team is as much as they like. But a big portion of the argument to who is the most locally-made and Canadian is which team plays their Canadians the most. I added up the total minutes played by each Canadian to figure out which team has played their Canadians the most this year:
Montreal Impact: 4042 minutes
Toronto FC: 4900 minutes
Vancouver Whitecaps: 3652 minutes
Out of all of these teams, Toronto FC obviously has played their Canadians the most, while Montreal place second, and Vancouver place last. I feel like these numbers would have looked a lot different had Toronto not played the CONCACAF Champions League this year, or had gotten knocked out earlier in the tournament. In between CCL fixtures this year Toronto FC played reserve teams against the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo.
Those two lineups included many primarily Canadian academy products, boosting TFC’s total in this category. For example, Toronto FC started five Canadian players against Houston, but when they played Sporting Kansas City recently, they only started three. TFC’s results may, then, be skewed.
I find it’s always interesting to see which Canadian gets the most playing time on each team as well, so here they are:
Montreal Impact: Samuel Piette — 1740 minutes
Toronto FC: Jonathan Osorio — 1352 minutes
Vancouver Whitecaps: Alphonso Davies — 1419 minutes
So who’s the most locally-made and Canadian MLS team? I would say it’s either between the Montreal Impact or Toronto FC. The Vancouver Whitecaps come last in a lot of these categories that I’ve listed. They do have their standout players, certainly, like Alphonso Davies. Though I think you have to look at the general idea of how locally-built a team is, instead of citing a few good players. I believe Toronto FC is probably the best in terms of developing young Canadians over the years, but that doesn’t make them the most Canadian or locally-made today.
I think Montreal are better at giving their Canadians playing time on a more consistent basis right now. Toronto FC seem to be better at signing more Canadians in general and signing fewer international players, although a lot of their core players (Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Gregory van der Wiel, and so on) come from abroad. Overall, I would say that Montreal and Toronto are about equal in how Canadian they are. In terms of how locally-made each team is, Toronto FC seems to win there.
Who do you think is the most Canadian and locally-made team? Leave your opinion in the comments down below!