Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Worst kept secret

After almost two years of speculation and on again off again talks, the Montreal Impact were finally announced as the 20th MLS team commencing play in 2012. Now I'm not here to pan the length of time it took for this deal to happen, as a Canadian Soccer fan I'm just excited for the expansion of the game in Canada. With the Vancouver Whitecaps beginning play in MLS next season not only will Canadian teams have a few true rivalries, it will increase the opportunities for home grown players to develop and train at a high level in Canada. Which in turn will help boost the prospects of the national squad.

At the heart of its creation, the over reaching goal of the MLS was to boost the supply of quality trained U.S players for the American national team. If you take the performances of U.S.A soccer over the life span of the MLS (save World Cup 98) the quality of squad has improved dramatically. The U.S national team has qualified for every world cup since MLS kick off in 1996 and are a constant in CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments. For all the critics of the league and the standard of play, the MLS has provided USA soccer with a strong youth development system, and a way to "blood" them at the pro level.

So what does this mean for Canada? One of my long standing criticisms of Soccer Canada has been it inability to spot out and maintain relationships with its talented youth players. Canada has lost a ton of quality players to other countries at the international level due to the lack of central scouting.

One thing league expansion into Canada will bring is the ability for club sides to find these talents and bring them into their youth academies. This is already happening at Toronto FC. The Vancouver Whitecaps have one of the best and long standing youth set ups in the country, and no doubt Montreal will do the same in order to compete with TFC and the Caps.

This also can help stem the flow of players who are choosing to leave Canada to pursure their football educations overseas. Example Johnthan DeGuzman, younger brother of Canadian international Julian; who left of Holland at age 16 for the Feyenoord youth system and now wishes to play for the Dutch instead of Canada. Jonathan is an exceptional footballer but due to learning most of his skills in Holland, plus the lack of attention paid by Soccer Canada had lead him to feel more Dutch than Canadian. Bringing more professional teams to Canada will allow players like Jonathan to have the option to stay home and apply their skills.

Overall The addition of Montreal to MLS is a positive all around for Canadian soccer, as this could be the catalyst for a soccer explosion in the country.

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