CPL com­mis­sioner hopes to cap­i­tal­ize on ‘ris­ing tide ef­fect’ from 2026 soc­cer show­case

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - GRE­GORY STRONG

TORONTO — For an up­start soc­cer 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 good­news 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 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.

CNW GROUP FILE PHOTO

David Clanachan is con­fi­dent be­ing co-host of the 2026 World Cup will help his new league.

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