View Full Version : Is Canada MLS' biggest challenge?

03-18-2011, 08:32 AM
“Where will you be March 19?” Those words challenge Vancouverites from billboards and bus-stop ads all over the city as Canada is just days away from welcoming its second Major League Soccer team into the fold. The message is a simple one: History is about to be made.
But there’s far more at stake here than just Vancouver going major in a sport it has supported so well since the NASL days. When the Whitecaps host Toronto FC (http://www.torontofc.ca/) at Empire Field on Saturday, it will mark the first matchup of two Canadian teams in MLS history – and the first time two Canadian teams will enjoy top-flight status of any kind since, again, the NASL days.
This is just the beginning, of course. In 12 months’ time, MLS will welcome the Montreal Impact as the league’s 19th team, a giant shift north of the border for the US-based league, and the biggest such commitment of any North American sporting league other than the NHL.
MLS’ Great Northern Experiment has begun. And it’s a development that is a fascinating strategy. Sure, Canada’s three biggest cities offer three markets that are ripe for MLS to set down roots and grow the league. But this new shift north also represents one of the biggest challenges the league has ever undertaken: becoming the caretaker for the growth of the game in not one, but two countries.
“I believe that just as the league has played a very positive and critical role in the development of soccer in the United States,” MLS president Mark Abbott told MLSsoccer.com, “so, too, will the league – through the teams in Canada – play a role in the development of Canadian soccer.”

Toronto FC assistant GM Earl Cochrane, who worked for several years for the Canadian Soccer Association, says MLS is already directly responsible for Canada’s future. He remembers watching the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and having an “ah-ha” moment when he realized 13 of the 18 players on the US team were MLS-based.
“I sat there thinking, this is a big moment for US soccer,” the former TFC (http://www.torontofc.ca/) Academy director recalled to MLSsoccer.com. “This is an indication that this league works."
He had that same “ah-ha” moment last month when Canada qualified for this summer’s U-17 World Cup, the first time the Canucks will participate in that tournament in 16 years. And the reason is clear: 12 of the 20 members of that squad are products of the Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal academies.
“This is a perfect example of where we can take this,” he says. “You watch some of these kids play, and you think, ‘Wow, in two or three years, these kids will step into the first team at some point [for their MLS clubs].”
The chances for young Canadian soccer players to break through into a top-level pro league are now very real – and for literally the first times in their lives, Cochrane notes, these kids have a domestic first division they can follow and aspire to join one day.

When it’s all said and done, this weekend will be remembered not as just another milestone for MLS, but for a whole other country. Will you remember where you were March 19?

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Fort York Redcoat
03-18-2011, 09:01 AM
I'm glad from a Canadian perspective that Vanny is in the league before Montreal so they get a year in the spotlight before they are relegated to cross-border rivalry.

03-18-2011, 09:53 AM
its all good for fitba