After Canada was eliminated fairly early from the qualifying round for the World Cup in 2018, the issue of Canada playing in the MLS was brought under the miscoscope. The central issue, and one that the head of Soccer Canada is trying to bring attention to, is that Canadian players are not being treated equally to their American counterparts. Considering that their are three Canadian teams competing in the MLS, their soccer association (Soccer Canada) is working especially hard to level the playing field.
What is the central issue?
According to The Guardian, American soccer players in the MLS are treated as domestic players even when the teams they play for are in Mexico or Canada, while Canadians are considered to be international players even if they play for a team inside the U.S. This is a problem because the league only allows 160 international players per season, and only 24 roster spaces in the MLS are filled by Canadians.
Executives in the MLS insist that the reason behind Canada’s teams not being treated as domestic is because of America’s antiquated immigration laws. While this may be the case, the opposition asserts that the MLS could easily challenge those laws.
In effect, the MLS is grabbing Canadian fans at the expense of Canadian players. Having Canada’s three teams in the MLS greatly benefits the league as a whole,contributing to greater viewership and involvement in the league, but it doesn’t seem to benefit Canadian players at all.
What does this mean for future players?
In order to augment its aggressive recruiting strategy, Canada runs a youth training program in order to handpick future players straight from programs that it has designed itself. What all of these rules mean for these players is that they might not have a team that they can be transferred to when they come of age. What’s more, these programs are not free. Many detractors insist that this is money that’s being wasted on programs that won’t pay off in the end.
The players that move on from these programs and then go on to look at rosters in foreign teams tend to be overlooked for more desirable players. Any way you look at it, it seems like Canadian players are being shafted.
Vic Montagliani, president of Soccer Canada, claims that a solution to this problem will be reached by the end of the current season, but there’s no conclusive word on what that solution might be. If a solution is not reached, the could affect not only the teams and players themselves, but the league structure, the international market, and every other factor, all the way down to online sports betting.
In the meantime, Canada’s solution is to wait and see. Since the MLS is waiting to release their solution till the end of the season, there’s not much that Canadian teams can do for the time being. Should the proposed solution be one that doesn’t value Canadian teams, there stands a very good chance that these teams could pull out of the MLS in protest. While these three teams bring many benefits to the MLS, the same can not be said for the teams themselves. It remains to be seen how this problem will resolve (if it does), but it’s obvious that the status quo will not be maintained either way.