Prior to the historic Eastern Conference semi-final tonight in Toronto, which will see Montreal Impact or Toronto FC become the first Canadian team to play in the MLS Cup, Major League Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association made an important announcement.
While what people expected to be announced is, in fact, what was announced, there were caveats. As expected, MLS announced that starting in 2017, Canadian players would count as domestic players for both Canadian and US-based teams. This comes as great, long overdue, news, given that 3 MLS teams are based on Canada. However, it was not all rosy.
In their summary of the announcement, MLS outlined the conditions that Canadian players would have to meet in order to be considered domestic on US teams. The player must have become a member of an MLS club academy or Canadian Approved Youth Club by 15 AND the player signs their first professional contract with MLS or an MLS USL affiliate.
So what does the announcement mean? My personal opinion is that it means that Canadian teams can now trade away their homegrown players to the US more easily. That is about it. For example, Teibert can now be traded to a US-based MLS team and he will count as a domestic. However, Cyle Larin and Will Johnson, for example, are not 'Canadian players'. So, it is certainly a small step forward, but the announcement should not be blown out of proportion.
In addition to the announcement surrounding domestic players, another announcement was made; in my opinion, a more important announcement. MLS will be setting up a Generation Adidas program in Canada. This is actually big news as having that GA tag typically means a player is taken early in the SuperDraft and stays on a roster for several years. Do you think players like Salgado and Dean would have stuck around as long with the Caps if they were not 'free' from the salary cap? Having that option for Canadian players is going to be important for development and increasing the number of Canadian players in MLS.
While the timing of the announcement makes sense given the Toronto/Montreal match, I cannot help but wonder how much of this decision is focused on the Canadian Professional League announcement set for December 6th. I doubt that it is a coincidence that the decision by MLS is being made now. By trying to acquire some of Canada's top college players as Generation Adidas contracts, MLS is essentially trying to convince them to pick MLS over CanPL. In addition, requiring that players come from specific MLS-affiliated academies means that young players will choose those over non-affiliates to increase their opportunities. Maybe I am being too cynical, although I doubt it.
What are your thoughts on this announcement?