Don Garber / Canada Soccer initiative, Nov. 30, 2016
Photo by James Grossi

New MLS player initiative hailed as “great opportunity” for Canadian soccer

TORONTO – On Wednesday, an hour before the biggest match in recent Canadian soccer history — Toronto FC's 5-2 victory in the Eastern Conference Championship Leg Two — the sport in Canada received an additional boost.

At BMO Field in Toronto, MLS and Canadian soccer officials gathered to unveil a new joint task force that will focus on youth development in Canada. It will also expand the Generation adidas program into Canada, and update to the roster status of Canadian players in MLS.

“This is a very exciting day,” said Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani. “It's been a lot of hard work. Our partnership has really grown with our friends to the south. It's a unique example throughout the world how both federations have worked together on many fronts. The competition still exists on the pitch, but off the pitch [it's] the model of cooperation.

“This will allow us to drive the proper culture of football in our clubs, not just looking at winning championships, but at developing players,” he continued. “This is a great opportunity.”

MLS Commissioner Don Garber recalled a meeting back in 2006 at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment offices, when Toronto FC, the first Canadian expansion club, was born.

“We talked about the goal of being able to do here in Canada what we've been able to do with our partners at US Soccer in the United States,” he recalled. “It was about growing the game. In order to do that we have to work with our, now, three clubs and association to develop players.

“I don't think our job is done until Canada, on the men's side, qualifies for the World Cup,” Garber continued. “We know that there is lots of work to do. We look forward to doing that together with our three clubs: Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the Montreal Impact, as well as our partners in the CSA. We look forward to a great future.”

Montagliani added that he's looking forward to the impact that the changes will have on the development of the sport in Canada.

“This for us is a start, it's a platform. It gives our players something they've not had: opportunity,” he said. ”At the end of the day, all a player really wants is an opportunity to show their talent.”