Dissecting the OneSoccer Playoff “Debate”

Dissecting the OneSoccer Playoff “Debate”

This is awkward, because I am a fan first and foremost, but I also wear another hat as a hack of a writer with no real respected credentials working for a “rival” soccer site. (The site is respected, I’m their friendly hack)

But I’ve decided to write this piece to the growers of the game at OneSoccer/MediaPro, and by extension, to the larger Canadian Soccer community. And after watching the full debate – not just the clip I originally responded to on Twitter – I can respond more respectfully. (And by the way Adam, you invited us all to try and change your minds, and comment in the comment section. So here’s my version in my own giant comment section).


Let’s Get Our Debate On

Canada Soccer Business and MediaPro have grown the game in Canada. This I am well aware of because I can march down to my local stadium, affectionately dubbed, “The Coffee Grounds” for this type of football, and see a NorthStar Shield quality team wow the fans so regularly that it’s starting to be taken for granted already.

I know of over 100 Canadian players who are proud to say that they get paid to play the game as professionals in their homeland. That’s significant.

There is also a football economy growing here, and that is thanks to the work you’ve done here. Writers (thanks personally), content creators, agents, front office staff, trainers, coaches, etc. are all a part of it. Kudos.

Jordan Wilson celebrates scoring a last minute winner against Ottawa in 2021 (YORK UNITED FC/DAVID CHANT)

But I also know this stuff because y’all won’t shut up about it. It’s all “without CSB…” this, and “MediaPro took a chance where no one else dared” that. And maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be for the company that both covers all the games and reports on it. (Sounds like a monopoly – but unlike TSN/SN there’s an arm’s length separation between the board and the company that invested so much in the coverage of the game).

So that’s why I have so many issues with this new system, or more honestly, its roll out. But I am going to divide it up into to easily digestible slices, based on the OneSoccer debate with Oliver Platt, Jordan Wilson and Adam Jenkins. If you haven’t seen it yet check it out here first so my ranting has the benefit of context.


Another Change

Right off the hop, Adam stressed through annunciation, “another change.” CPL fans haven’t been able to catch their breath here. Year one we were told the Spring and Fall were an exciting way to do it! It was compared to our Concacaf brethren and other South American leagues. And the league was fun and playoffs were exciting.

Then Covid hit. We were introduced to the novel, Island Games as a flexible and awesome move. A round robin, followed by a playoff group stage, and a finals. Sadly we couldn’t be there in person, but nice job! And the league was fun and playoffs were exciting.

Year 3 arrived. This time we went with single-game knock outs. So exciting! And for the first time Forge were not the Champions and the entire CPL universe beyond the Hammer was happy that the yoke of tyranny had been cast off! Congratulations PFC. And the league was fun and playoffs were exciting.

Members of Pacific FC celebrate their win in the 2021 Canadian Premier League championship game, 1-0 over two-time defending champion Forge in Hamilton. (Pacific FC/Facebook)

Then came year 4. Welcome back to the tyranny and oppression of Bobby’s Crew. Two-legged semis. Another edition of The Rivalry. And the biggest ever finals in CPL history in Ottawa, Hamilton’s home away from home. And the league was fun and playoffs were exciting.


Fast-forward to Year 5, the one with its own patch! And guess what, another new format. And before the season even starts, I’ll make a prediction. The league will be fun and playoffs exciting!

So this is where you say, “so what the hell is the problem Kevin?”

Well first of all the off-season is too long and I get bored.

Second, this is a massive oversell. And I need to know why? Some games will just be duds. So how is this going to save the CPL world from boredom and monotony that every other league on earth suffers from?

So I am gonna continue breaking down the debate in chronological order. That seems easiest as I am so scattered over this.

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Poor Jordan Wilson

After Adam’s introduction, Jordan’s up next. This debate was dead before it started. I mean, I don’t need diametrically opposed, screaming enemies, I am still Canadian, after all. But watching Jordan go from having legitimate player perspective arguments, (too many playoff teams dismisses hard work of teams who earn one of the four coveted spots, a 14-16 day layoff as a consequence, why not wait until there are more teams that make it more palatable, etc) to towing the line in like one minute, was painful. KJ broke it down to him, so it is what it is, sigh.

Jordan is really great on OneSoccer, and having a player’s perspective is refreshing in light of all the journalists that are usually on the panel. I wish he got to go down his own road a little more for our benefit on this one.


Ollie to the Rescue

So I was disappointed Jordan didn’t fight harder for his points, but hey Ollie was next up, so we’re gonna be fine. I almost always side with Ollie in OneSoccer debates. He is reasoned, reasonable and unemotional. So I waited with bated breath for…my head to explode.

Basically, Ollie said this was one of the most important and transformative changes in league history. Ok. Bite your tongue I told myself. He’s gonna give reasoning you somehow overlooked as someone without the insider’s view he has.

To paraphrase, he said that the playoffs are like cold pizza, still delicious no matter what, but that this change was all about making the regular season games have meaning.

I don’t know what’s gonna happen next year when the 6th or 7th place teams are interviewed and tell us straight-faced that the run down the stretch means everything because it gives them a chance to play a one and done on the road against better team. Phew! That 28 game crucible was worth it. (The “this isn’t a real playoff spot because it is such an impossible road” camp)

York United and HFX Wanderers finished as sixth and seventh best in the CPL in 2022 (John Jacques)

But wait, remember a different other vantage point is also taken during this debate. The “All we have to do is qualify, then we can make a Cinderella run” camp. Hmm. It’s almost like the regular season standing doesn’t matter, you just gotta get a ticket to the dance. (BTW, this argument that looks like it was made made by bosses for bosses. Still no Collective Agreement in CPL though work is happening. I can’t see a group of players that was so concerned with fixture congestion in earlier seasons loving this, but I’ve been wrong before).

So which was camp was it again OneSoccer panel? The “Cake and eat it too” camp?

And Ollie goes on to make the two strongest cases for the increasing the importance of the regular season for 2023. Champions League places and a trophy for the winner. They are why every game matters. To play for your league, and then on the Continent as its representative in big games like Forge and Pacific have done. This is what every team should want to play for. Isn’t this enough? Did we really need a playoff change on top of this?


But of course every team can’t have this for all 28 games. Because some teams are not as well-coached, or as deep, or as talented, or as tactical, or even as good-looking. It sucks, but everyone can’t be as good. People talk about parity in MLS. But being a team that never wins in a league with forced parity ain’t gonna feel that great is it? Ask New England, the NY RedBulls or FC Dallas. Original teams to play there and never win. Sometimes it happens.

But a Canadian Championship run can show your value, right Isiah Johnston? And when Ollie says we need every game to mean something so we can sell players on, then explain how Zator and Loturi are in Europe and on CanMNT despite playing in the old status quo league for teams that didn’t win anything. Was it because York came close to making the playoffs but failed that Zator got that call? Then watch your players fly off the shelves this year Halifax!


Wind Up

Adam kinda tied it up in a bow at the end. If you like the regular season awesome, because it now have everything you could want, trophies and continental play as reward. And if you hate playoffs ignore them, but you’ll be missing out on some fun to spite yourself.

In the end it comes down to the same argument I always make about CanPL. It has value. It is a good league. It is what so many here have wanted for so long.

It really shouldn’t be this hard to appreciate the Golden Goose. Maybe being a fan in Hamilton has skewed this for me because I think the rewards are obvious.

Cavalry midfielder Elijah Adekugbe and Forge Attacker Tristan Borges strugge for possession. Both teams have made the most CPL Playoff appearances to date (CFC Media Mike Sturk)

But if it takes more tinkering to get others on board outside of Hamilton, Cavalry, Victoria and Ottawa (I kid them, but they get the value of our game) then more power to you.*

We’ve got a great league. I wish more people would act like they believe that too.

* I know there are fans in every CPL city and beyond that believe in this league, but this new change makes it seem like we need that spot to make the game fun in other cities that don’t have playoff success, you know like sold out Halifax and nearly there Valour and the new team. York, you’re on your own. I’m still a Battalion Member.

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