CPL commissioner hopes to capitalize on 'rising tide effect' from 2026 World Cup

By The Canadian Press
June 13, 2018 - 1:45pm

TORONTO — For an upstart league looking to generate buzz ahead of its kickoff next spring, the timing of the 2026 World Cup host announcement appears to be ideal for the Canadian Premier League.

The CPL plans to begin play in April with eight teams across the country.

With Canada named co-host of the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and the United States on Wednesday, domestic development from the sport's grassroots to the professional level will be heightened over the coming years. The CPL commissioner is confident that will help the new league that's armed with a mandate of building Canadian players, coaches and talent in all facets of the game.

"It's a rising tide effect," CPL commissioner David Clanachan said Wednesday. "The rising tide will float all boats and certainly in our premier league, we're going to be right in the middle of it all."

Canada's last men's World Cup appearance came in 1986. The 2026 showcase will be the first time the tournament has been played in Canada.

A tournament berth as co-host is expected but has not been finalized. The number of games to be played in Canada — expected to be 10 — has also not been confirmed.

Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal are the Canadian candidate host cities. FC Edmonton and suburban Toronto's York 9 FC are two of the CPL's founding teams.

A big task for any new league is to deliver a quality product with strong franchise owners, and then sustain things over those first few years. 

Marvin Ryder, a marketing professor at McMaster University, said the timing of the World Cup announcement is a good-news story for the country and the CPL. But he noted there is much work to be done.

"There is no doubt this announcement does not hurt the (CPL) at all," Ryder said from Hamilton. "The (CPL) will benefit from that, there will be more interest in that, but for them to capitalize on it is really going to require their management skills.

"In other words, we have an audience who is going to be interested in their message, assuming that they can put together a message and get it to the audience. And that's always the challenge."

The Canadian men's team, currently sandwiched between Lebanon and Curacao at No. 79 in the world, has been consistently hamstrung at the qualification level in attempts to get back to the World Cup.

"I think the Canadian Premier League is going to help that," said former national team member Jim Brennan. "It's going to give kids an opportunity to play professionally, which means it will be creating a bigger pool of players across the country for the national team coaches to select.

"I think the timing for the CPL and for this World Cup that we just received, I think it's perfect timing. It's up to all of us now collectively to help create a bigger pool for that national team program."

The Newmarket, Ont., native earned 49 caps for Canada and was Toronto FC's first captain.

He also observed the sport's grassroots activity first-hand for nearly three years as executive director of the youth soccer program in nearby Aurora, Ont.

Brennan, who recently joined York 9 to see oversee its soccer operations, said the CPL and World Cup developments will help give Canadian youngsters something to shoot for. 

"Hopefully some of these kids will fulfil their dreams of playing professionally in Canada and one day playing in a World Cup for Canada here in this country," Brennan said. "It's amazing."

The other founding CPL franchises include Winnipeg's Valour FC, Halifax's HFX Wanderers, Hamilton and Victoria. Ottawa is expected to be named to the inaugural list of teams as well.

Clanachan predicts that the domestic infrastructure will be strengthened by investments made around the game, particularly in the coaching development, player development and administrative areas.

He said he's already hearing from provincial soccer associations who have noticed a difference among the top tier of players in the 17-23 age range.

"The young players who play at that level are already this year — because of the Canadian Premier League —are showing up ready to go in better shape, training twice as hard, working on everything because they have a pathway to something other than just playing amateur soccer.

"Well (the World Cup announcement) just takes it to another level and puts it to a different stratosphere because now, depending on what age you are, you see that there's a window of opportunity there for you."

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Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

 

 

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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