This past weekend, the newly formed Canadian Premier League, Canada’s first ever top-flight league, got underway. It was a monumental occasion for soccer in Canada, and kicked off the path to better times for our Men’s National Team. One of the major hopes behind the Canadian Premier League was that it would present young Canadian players more opportunities to play at the highest level and create opportunities for players of all ages to catch the eye of Men’s National Team manager John Herdman. With a larger pool of players to select squads from, John Herdman’s team are supposed to become stronger, and finally capable of competing at an international tournament. Beyond those foreseen benefits, it was also just outrageous that Canada did not have its own top flight league. Canada was virtually the only developed nation to not have a top flight soccer league up until this point. Now, with the success of the league in terms of investment and attention, Canada Soccer should be looking towards next steps, and not just for the men of this country. Moving forward, Canada Soccer should look to create a top flight soccer league for the women in this country. They are after all, more deserving, having proven themselves to be one of the best national sides in the world over the past decade in the women’s game.
WOMEN’S SOCCER IN CANADA
The exact reasons why Canada has been such a powerhouse in the women’s game while failing on so many levels in the men’s game is a bit unclear. Perhaps, history plays a massive role. In the men’s game, Canada came late to the scene in comparison to more established footballing nations like England and Brazil. But in the women’s game, opportunities didn’t really exist anywhere in the world until very recently. The sport never really received any attention until the beginning of the 1970s. It took two more decades for a Women’s World Cup to be established in 1991, some sixty years later than the inaugural Men’s World Cup. For the most part, professional leagues have only come about since the turn of the millennium. The FA Women’s Super League (FAWSL) in England didn’t exist until 2010, French footballers didn’t sign professional contracts until 2009 despite Division 1 Feminine existing since the 1970’s, while the highly successful National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the United States started operations in 2012. Canada has been able to capitalize on this lack of history by having a strong economy and the resources to produce talented players capable of competing with other nations of similar economic prowess. In the men’s game, Canada is still well behind, regardless of our economic status as a country, and a professional league is certainly a step in the right direction.
However, we cannot forget about the women’s game, which put Canada on the map in this sport. The Women’s National Team finished fourth at the World Cup in 2003, before receiving back to back Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016. The country has produced players like Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt, Kadeisha Buchanan and Jessie Fleming, who have been some of the best in their positions worldwide for years. Canada also hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2015, to resounding success, while the national team made it to the quarter finals. Canada has already proven itself on the world stage in the women’s game. So although much attention to the development of the men’s game is very positive for Canada Soccer, we cannot forget to continue to invest in what already makes our country so great in this sport and the team that has the most potential to represent Canada on the world stage at this moment in time.
NO PROFESSIONAL CLUBS IN CANADA?
The best way to promote the women’s game in this country moving forward is to produce a Women’s Canadian Premier League and encourage all those playing overseas to come back home to Canada, just like the CPL dreamers envisioned for the men’s league. Up until this point, professional athletes like Christine Sinclair and Kadeisha Buchanan have needed to rely on playing in the United States or in Europe to make a living playing this sport. Whether by their own omission or through a lack of opportunities elsewhere, younger athletes like Jessie Fleming and Deanne Rose have had to make a name for themselves at college level before entering the professional game. Jessie Fleming has made over 60 appearances for Canada at international level, yet still plays for UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). This kind of stat is unheard of anywhere else in the developed world, where young players have the opportunity to play for professional academies before signing professional contracts. It is also important to note that only two members of Canada’s latest squad for friendly matches in April 2019, play for clubs in Canada. Those two players are 18-year old Jayde Riviere and 17-year old Jordyn Hutemia who have both impressed for Canada’s youth teams and currently play for Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite.
In the men’s game where investment has already gone into professional clubs like Toronto FC Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps, nine of the twenty-three recent squad members were playing for professional clubs in Canada at the time of their selection to Herdman’s team. This isn’t amazing, but it demonstrates the disparity between the men’s and women’s game when it comes to players representing their national team, while playing for Canadian clubs. It would be amazing to keep Jayde Riviere and Jordyn Huteima in Canada, but unfortunately, this isn’t a reality. Athletes wishing to play professionally in Canada are limited to only semi-professional options such as the Vancouver Whitecaps Women, Calgary Foothills WFC or playing in League 1 Ontario. The Whitecaps are one of 108 clubs playing in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, the second tier to the NWSL; while the Calgary Foothills play in an equivalent league – UWS. FC London, who boast one of the more impressive League 1 Ontario sides, just lost probably their best ever player, Jade Kovacevic, to A.S. Roma in the women’s Serie A.
Prior to the creation of the Canadian Premier League, Canada could at least claim to have Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Montreal Impact for male players looking to play professionally in Canada. When it comes to the women’s game, young girls hoping to make it as professionals play for youth academies like Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps, without any professional team to work their way into. When they turn eighteen, most of our talented youngsters go off to college in the United States. From there, many make it into the NWSL or Europe, while others fail at the lack of opportunities and take up other career paths. None of these options are what Canada Soccer should be hoping for if they truly believe in the development of their national teams. Players like Jade Kovacevic, Jayde Riviere and Jordyn Huteima should not be going to Europe at the first opportunity they get. We need to keep more young Canadian players in this country, regardless of gender.
One of the main goals of the Canadian Premier League was to keep young players here in Canada rather than sending them to play overseas where they might not get an opportunity. This goal should not be forgotten about when it comes to the women’s game in Canada, as we remember which national team put Canada on the map in this sport.
So what do you think? Should Canada adopt a Women’s Canadian Premier League? If so, when? Comment below to share your thoughts and make sure to follow on Twitter @mastermindsite.
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