CanPL at Five: What Do We Want to Be?

CanPL at Five: What Do We Want to Be?

I really like Drew Beckie. He was a solid player, and he is an example of what this league is all about in my opinion. He had an opportunity to play in front of Canadian crowds as a player with Ottawa.

And now he graduates into the management side as the soccer ecosystem grows here in Canada. Perfection! (Plus he always responds good-naturedly to a little banter.

Drew Beckie, Atletico Ottawa

But recently a Tweet of his (a Xeet?) really rubbed me the wrong way. It was this one:

It got me mad. Then it got me thinking, why am I mad? And I guess it is because I have dreams of what the CanPL can/should be, and they don’t necessarily align with other people’s. Including other people with more soccer experience and way more skin in the game. But as the great Jock Stein said, “Football is nothing, without fans.” And I am a fan. So I am here to save you from nothingness.


Ok, so firstly, why did the esteemed Drew Beckie’s words strike me so strongly? At the risk of sounding like an upside down maple leaf-flag flying maniac…Canada First.

We are barely a half-decade old, and already running to suckle at the teat of the great American milk machine? I think the Guess Who said it best:

“American woman, stay away from me
American woman, mama let me be
Don’t come a hangin’ around my door
I don’t want to see your face no more
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time growin’ old with you…Coloured lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else’s eyes
Now woman, I said get away”

So, if it was good enough for Cummings, Bachman et al, then it is good enough for us all, no?


We Have the Goods

We are in the middle of a sporting renaissance in Canada. The CFL is trudging on, after nearly dying during Covid. It is the most Canadian of Pro leagues, and its importance is almost lost on Southern Ontarians. Because the Argos don’t draw, and the Buffalo Bills are too close by, stupid geography. But man, watching in Winnipeg, Regina or other western locales and you’d be forgiven for thinking its death had been prematurely reported.

The CEBL is in full flight. Had a season or two on the CBC and now got a deal with one half of the hated duopoly, TSN. And they get bums in seats.

And finally, the CanPL is building a following. So let’s keep building Canadian Leagues. There is something inherently cool about local sides. And while I am not one to get jingoistic or all “My Country Right or Wrong”, I am one to shop local. And man, soccer is much more fun in person than on the couch.

The majority of teams, most notably Forge have seen their attendances rise this season. (Brandon Taylor/Forge FC Hamilton)

But my love of The CanPL is bigger than simple America bashing. Soccer in Canada has a small window of play compared to a lot of the soccer-loving planet. Games in Calgary in the spring can be under a foot of snow. And Winnipeg post-October…no thanks. So there we are.

So if we are to add more games to a short playing season, I think there are better options. And that is not meant as a sleight against Loudoun United or the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. (Well maybe a little).

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Let’s Have Bigger Dreams

Why not dream bigger? For example:

How about the CanPL/Concacaf Champions Invitational? That’s right, a World Cup-Style tournament (as people in marketing are so fond of calling tournaments) that invites the Champions of 8 Concacaf top flights. According to ( ) the Top 10 not including CanPL, MLS or LigaMX includes these leagues:

⁃ Honduras
⁃ Costa Rica
⁃ Guatemala
⁃ Panama
⁃ El Salvador
⁃ Nicaragua
⁃ Jamaica
⁃ Haiti

Include the champions of each of those leagues and you have a ready-made 16 team tournament. Divide them into four groups. NorthEast, NorthWest, SouthEast and SouthWest. The group stage games are played in one host city in each location (Example: NW – Victoria, NE – Hamilton (both as former champs), SW – San Pedro Sula, SE – Kingston. Jamaica). Top two teams in each group move on. Then teams come to Canada for the Knockout stages. All games played in the Canadian Host city. I chose this format because I know we are on a budget. We could always go all in Canada, or change to different regions annually, etc. And we could mix up the Groups to have two CPL and two international teams in each of course. But again, right now I am watching the CanPL’s wallet.


The World Needs More Canada

So if you are like, “Hey Kevin, I thought you said, ‘Canada First’.” You are right, I did. I did, and I am regretting it. It sounds like a Maxime Bernier-lead propaganda piece. But here we are.

Yeah, there is something we could do locally that is way better than USLC vs LigaMX vs CanPL. It is an expanded Voyageurs Cup. League 1 Canada (L1C) is growing at a great pace. The quality is pretty good. And a lot of CanPL’s future stars are dying to get in front of the cameras, and scouts, to show the CanPL brass what they can do. So why not a true CSA Cup?

TSS Rovers 3-1 win over Valour was the highlight of the 2022 Canadian Championship (Tom Ewasiuk, Residual Image Photography

Currently there are 41 Men’s sides in League 1 Canada. With some finessing – maybe a bye for the Interprovincial Cup winner – that would make for 40 teams in the opening round, drawn in regional ties. Then the 20 winners plus the Champion’s bye-team move on to round two, where all the Canadian pro teams enter and are part of a random draw within regions. That would be a total of 32-teams. One and done knockout games. That is 5 extra games for the two finalists, maximum (six if a finalist makes it from L1C). Midweek games from May until the end of September. The Cup Final to be played the week after the CanPL Finals or a good tune up before the MLS playoffs. But it must be on a Saturday!!! Let’s fans travel for a final to be played at pre-determined host site.

How fun would that be? Teams having to decide whether to prioritize a league run, playoff standings or a shot at National glory! It really is only an extra game per month for the most successful teams. I love it! Man, I am clever.


Trying Not to Gatekeep

If you still don’t feel all warm and fuzzy for our regional Federation and National pyramid and you still really need to see the USLC come to Canada so badly, you could just organize a SuperCup. The League Champions face off. You could make it a mini-preseason tournament by inviting both the Regular Season and Playoff Champs from both leagues. Alternate a Canadian and US host city each year maybe? I don’t know. This one is not my idea, I stole it off the internet. See?! (Thanks @soccersuperpick).

I kinda hate it because I think it sullies the whole Tier 1 designation we have from FIFA. But I am willing to throw a bone to the common people. I have not lost touch with the peasantry from which I sprang. Be grateful I still consider your feelings from time to time from my journalistic throne.

Look in the end, I love that we are thinking of ideas that bring more eyeballs to our game. So I am trying hard not to gatekeep ideas, or yuck other people’s yums. But man I can see so much growth for Canadian soccer if we could just stay out of our own way. We are big, rich, industrious and very creative. Let’s stop falling back on the old ways and grow the game, for us, by us.

And I think it is worth pointing out, that we are a prosperous nation with a top ten economy worldwide. Building a proper soccer system isn’t easy because of a myriad a uniquely Canadian issues. But why should we let that hold us back?

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