Analysis

Chaos: The Canadian Premier League, NASL, and USL

Photo courtesy Canadian Premier League official Twitter account

On May 6, 2017 the Canadian Soccer Association approved the Canadian Premier League to operate in 2018 as a Canadian second division below the three Canadian Major League Soccer clubs.

Few Americans noticed.

Now that the United States Soccer Federation has denied the North American Soccer League’s renewal of its division 2 status, it is time to notice south of the border.

The CPL is part of the context that will answer the general question, “What will happen to Division 2 soccer in North America as a result of U. S. Soccer’s decision to deny the North American Soccer League certification as a division 2 league?”

Possible CPL teams

The league is expected to have six to eight clubs initially, and some expect it might grow to as many as 12 over the course of a decade.  It will be headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario.  There may be a “soft launch” of those teams ready for play following the World Cup in the summer of 2018, with a full launch the following season.

  • Two new clubs are approved, expected participants for 2018 and are owned by the same groups as own the Canadian Football League teams there.
    • Hamilton, Ontario
    • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Other new clubs may be created in the future where none currently exist. These probabilities vary, ranging from rumor – Saskatoon – to local government soccer-stadium construction approval and funding – Halifax.
    • Calgary, Alberta
    • Halifax, Nova Scotia
    • Moncton, New Brunswick
    • Regina, Saskatchewan
    • Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    • London, Ontario
    • Kitchner-Waterloo, Ontario
    • Mississauga, Ontario
    • Victoria, British Columbia
    • the Fraser River valley, British Columbia
  • Existing clubs may perhaps join
    • FC Edmonton, Alberta,                                           currently NASL
    • Ottawa Fury, Ontario/Quebec,                                currently USL
    • Toronto FC II, Ontario,                                            currently USL,  a wholly-owned MLS affiliate
    • Vancouver Whitecaps 2, British Columbia,             currently USL,  a wholly-owned MLS affiliate
Possible markets

Here are the 12 largest metropolitan areas (CMA) in Canada, plus some of the places mentioned above. The CPL is expected to avoid competing with the current MLS markets, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, that are also home to three provincial-level, minor league systems focused on youth development.

# City & Province People 2017
  1 Toronto, Ontario* 5,928,040 MLS2
  2 Montreal, Quebec* 4,098,927
  3 Vancouver, British Columbia* 2,463,431 MLS2
  4 CalgaryAlberta 1,392,609
  5 Ottawa/Gatineau, Ontario/Quebec 1,323,783 USL
  6 Edmonton, Alberta 1,321,426 NASL
  7 Quebec City, Quebec 800,296
  8 Winnipeg, Manitoba 778,489 2018
  9 Hamilton, Ontario 747,545 2018
10 Kitchener//Waterloo, Ontario 523,894
11 London, Ontario 494,069
12 St. Catharines/Niagara, Ontario 406,074
13 Halifax, Nova Scotia 403,390
17 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 295,095
18 Regina, Saskatchewan 236,481
29 Moncton, New Brunswick 144,810
The future effects

Here is our limited understanding of the intentions of the existing USL and NASL clubs from Canada, and the current NASL clubs in the United States.

U. S. Soccer would have known of the Canadian Soccer Association’s approval of the Canadian Premier League for 2018 play before revoking NASL’s provisional division 2 status.

There are reports dating from the December ’16-January ‘17 NASL crisis that the brothers who own FC Edmonton were then oriented towards the Canadian Premier League for their future.  If USSF thought Edmonton would leave NASL, such thinking might help explain its lowering the boom on the NASL. If NASL collapses as once again seems possible, such a departure seems obvious.

Brian Strauss of SI.com and Planet Futbol reports there was an NASL meeting in New York to concoct an appeal from the USSF demotion decision. The meeting resulted in Rocco Commisso of the NASL’s NY Cosmos becoming Commisioner, and the currentl lawsuit to enjoin U. S. Soccer from rescinding NASL’s provisional Division 2 status.

Similarly, Maximillian Pacheco and Oliver Platt of website WakingTheRed have a late-July summary towards what is known of the CPL project. Noteworthy is their report that Toronto FC want their wholly-owned USL affiliate, Toronto FC II, to join CPL rather than have an independent, new team from the metro Toronto area emerge.

Chaos

The United Soccer League is not assured of its 33 teams for 2018, because full Canadian departure to a CPL would mean 30. NASL safe landings could mean one or more USL additions.

Hell will freeze over and the Phillies will win the World Series again before the New York Cosmos of Rocco Commisso and Miami FC of Riccardo Silva join the restricted competition businesses that are MLS or its partner the USL, especially given recent hostile legal action.  Both maverick teams are seemingly healthy.  Silva is a billionaire, and the Cosmos attendance is up 28% over last season in the Brooklyn baseball stadium.

Some NASL teams may not survive to 2018.  San Francisco is rumored to be in financial difficulty. There is similar worry about Puerto Rico and Jacksonville.  It is possible that Commisso and Silva might mitigate their problems with some type of financial assistance, but that is not a permanent solution.

North Carolina FC seems healthy, and, having applied to join MLS, would seem to have no hesitancy about accepting its restraints on full economic competition and freedom of ownership. Indy Eleven is thought to be roughly the same, although it has been quiet in the immediate aftermath of U. S. Soccer’s September surprise.

If you, the reader, are confused and uncertain, you have understood the situation well.

16 Comments

  1. Steven Sandor says:

    First, the CanPL technically does not exist yet. Two teams (in Hamilton and Winnipeg) have been approved to operate by Canada Soccer.

    But, more importantly, the goal of Canada Soccer is for CanPL to be a DIVISION ONE league. It is NOT the aim for it to be a division 2 below MLS. That has been the stated aim, that it will be a “Division 1A” that will be seen as equal to MLS in Canada.

    • Funny meeting you here! And yeah, exactly my sentiments. This article is WAAAAY off!

    • That’s a pipe dream. Until TFC, Vancouver and Montreal start talking about moving their MLS clubs over to the Canadian league, the best you can hope for is the equivalent of a Welsh Premier League — and note, the best Welsh teams play in England’s league.

  2. I think both Edmonton & Ottawa have stated that they want to join the CPL.

  3. Jeff Salisbury says:

    Something else to add to Steve’s comment is that Canada Soccer doesn’t want the MLS2 sides to be part of the league. You definitely will not see TFC2, and certainly not WFC2 now that it has folded, in CanPL.

    It is still up in the air as to whether the league will kick off in 2018 after the WC with 6 teams or 2019 with 8 teams.

    Saskatoon is far from rumoured at this point. The ownership group for the team has already presented to city hall and everyone’s just waiting for the temporary stadium plan to emerge.

  4. John P O'Donnell Jr. says:

    It looks like the Cosmos and Miami FC are in one of those creeks without a paddle. I also cannot see USL wanting them as their model is working and they are not willing to change.

  5. Was the point of this article:
    1 – discussing the Canada association’s attempt to build up their leagues and clubs
    2 – promoting NASL and the Cosmos’ dippy owner
    3 – taking a shot at “restricted competition” leagues like MLS?
    .
    Just asking for all of us who didn’t follow your point. As for the breathlessness we all have in waiting for Halifax FC to kick off operations on the frozen coast of the Atlantic, I think the CPL is a “believe it when I give a shit about it” league. That’s great for Canuckistan, but there’s zero (0) impact to American leagues.

    • Saying it with a smile, Scottymac, what the first word in the title?
      .
      That’s my point.
      .
      The certainties that USL are propagandizing every chance they get are not certain, for two reasons not just one. NASL has had the boom lowered, and the soccer situation north of the 49th parallel is going to change.
      .
      Forewarned is forearmed. Is the situation in flux, certainly, are there many uncertainties you bet. If you had been living in Houston this summer would you have preferred the warnings, no matter how uncertain, or would have wanted what Rhode Island got back in the 30s — none. It is entirely your choice.

      • Smiling right back atcha-

        .
        I just think this is more tempest in a teapot. If NASL folds, will anyone notice? Beyond a few bloggers and “soccer twitter”, I think the majority of Americanada will shrug. Will a few minor league teams struggle or maybe fold? Probably. It’s a shame. I was around the first time for the Cosmos. I used to go to MISL games. I don’t miss it. Something else comes along. Soccer nature abhors a vacuum. I wish the FC Edmonton Frozennutz all the best.

  6. Kahkakew Yawassanay says:

    CanPL remains a poor dream and hopefully FCE never stoops to this overhyped Div 3 league just to have somewhere to play…

  7. With regards the divisional status of the CPL, sources are not consistent in their stories. What does seem to be consistent is that they are not going to compete directly with the three Canadian MLS teams.
    .
    How long they will avoid such competing is unclear. Some suggest only initially, others think longer. Since Soccer Canada wants to develop the sport, and the NASL example indicates the destructiveness of trying to compete against a monopoly, my own thought is they will avoid for a while.

  8. Bill Archer says:

    I agree that the constant gratuitous MLS bashing only distracts from the point. Yes, we get it, you are one of those truly annoying and clueless “promotion/relegation” geeks.

    Nobody cares. MLS is not a “closed league”, it’s a single company. When you want to argue that the NFL or NBA should toss out league members in favor of including Toledo or Biloxi, let me know.

    What I want to point out is that no, Canada does not intend to claim the new league is Div 1. That would be stupid, fraudulent and laughable. Without the 3 biggest cities – by FAR – in the country, it would only make them look ridiculous.

    And TFC, the Whitecaps and Montreal will leave MLS when pigs fly.

    Furthermore, it is just not true, as you keep daying, that USSF “revoked” NASL’s Div 2 status.

    US Soccer established some requirements. NASL was unable to meet them. US Soccer gave them a waiver 2 years in a row nut still they couldn’t meet the minimum requirements.

    That’s not revoking anything. It’s NASL failing to meet the rules.

    • I think you are misinformed. That is not meant to be rude, just a fact. CPL will be Division 1 in Canada if for no other reason than there is no other Canadian Division. The MLS teams play in America. This is not unlike Welsh Soccer. Their two biggest sides play in England, but the Welsh Premier League is just that in Wales, premier. And so it goes with Canada. A league that treats our players as foreigners on 80% or so of the teams can hardly be considered our First Division. So MLS will host our Division 1A teams in name only because three teams do not a Division make. The CPL will be our top tier LEAGUE.

      I love MLS soccer, go REDS, but I can’t wait for a league of our own.

      As for the NASL vs MLS bashing you are likely bang on. My knowledge aboit such things is akin to ignorance

  9. Bill Archer says:

    PS: You menrion how exciting it is that the New York NeoCosmos attendance is up 28% but neglect to add that it’s still well under 5,000 per game even with half the house there on free tickets which they hand out like candy.

    Your overall characterization of all this as “chaos” is 180 degrees from reality. USSF is bringing order to a situation which is bad for everybody and since they have to choose one or the other league they’re choosing the one with 30 or so strong members over the one with 8 or 7 or 6 or 5 depending on the day, with most of them in life support.

    • You are correct in re “chaos”. I should have said “Impending Chaos: …” to clarify that I am focused on that which is to come.

  10. I think you are misinformed. That is not meant to be rude, just a fact. CPL will be Division 1 in Canada if for no other reason than there is no other Canadian Division. The MLS teams play in America. This is not unlike Welsh Soccer. Their two biggest sides play in England, but the Welsh Premier League is just that in Wales, premier. And so it goes with Canada. A league that treats our players as foreigners on 80% or so of the teams can hardly be considered our First Division. So MLS will host our Division 1A teams in name only because three teams do not a Division make. The CPL will be our top tier LEAGUE.

    I love MLS soccer, go REDS, but I can’t wait for a league of our own.

    As for the NASL vs MLS bashing you are likely bang on. My knowledge aboit such things is akin to ignorance

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