Is Canada’s Club Football Brighter than in the US?


While the Canadian National Team has been eliminated from securing its first World Cup qualification since 1986, this has been an otherwise banner year in Canadian Soccer. Toronto FC has been a few terrible (and dare I say blatant) officials calls away from making the MLS playoffs as a second year franchise. The Thunder Bay Chill became the first Canadian champions of the PDL by upsetting Laredo in the finals. Vancouver has won yet another USL title, and Montreal currently has the most points of any CONCACAF Champions League participant.


With Canadian fortunes so clearly on the upswing, while club football in the United States is quite honestly stagnant in quality (in other words MLS and USL have gotten a boost from their Canadian sides to claim the leagues are actually improving in standard) should Canada become the focus of any future MLS expansion? Will this be tolerated by FIFA and the USSF? Does football have a stronger future north of the border as a spectator sport than in the peculiar sporting culture of the United States?

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
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10 Responses to Is Canada’s Club Football Brighter than in the US?

  1. Joey Clams says:

    The current set-up gives Canada the advantage of concentrating effort, resources and attention on one team, in the case of MLS, and a few, in the case of USL. I'm more concerned with MLS. Canadian soccer fans haven't figured out that what most irritates American observers is that Canada asserts either its independence or its supposed etnernal fraternity depending on circumstances. When it's convenient, they distance themselves from the colossus. When it serves their purposes, they yap about the special relationship and historic trade patterns and all that. Bom. Toronto is unique among MLS clubs because it is an expression of frustrated soccer nationalism. Toronto fans will deny that, of course, but they're disingenuous or just wrong. Explain the red and white, the maple leaf on the crest, the Canadian flags in the stands. Toronto is a competent alternative to the national team. Guess what? There's no place for that in traditional club soccer. It's also unreasonable to expect that sort of long term intensity from the fans of other MLS teams. Lalas served up a softball to Abbott in that interview on Extra Time. Abbott, like a typical MLS moron, commented on Toronto's success and the viability of MLS in other Canadian cities when he had been asked about the appropriateness of having MLS teams in Canada. Lalas didn't press the matter. The USSF will allow further expansion into Canada because MLS will muscle it into granting approval. Anyway, it's a lot easier to develop a strong individual club when your ownership isn't the least bit concerned about developing the game in other parts of your country. Canadian clubs may be models. But if they're mere permanent guests in someone else's league, what's the point? If the owners of Toronto had any real pride in the maple leaf on the front of the team shirts they'd be dedicated to growing the game in Canada. Of course, if they ever did that there would be no need to have the darn maple leaf on the shirt in the first place. They want it both ways: they cite the limitations of the Canadian game and then celebrate their greater passion and sophistication. They blame their federation when their national team slips up but regard dependence and a reluctance to seek self-determination as a badge of honor.

  2. Lewis says:

    MLS is becoming very greedy. We see that with Superliga and all the SUM events. We see it with over expansion, etc.
    The continued proliferation of Canadian teams in the AMERICAN FIRST DIVISION, has to be stopped by FIFA. They must rule on this and in favor of keeping domestic leagues domestic.
    TFC, the Impact and the Whitecaps can pool their resources and find three more teams to start a Canadian league.
    As for Thunder Bay that really pissed me off. The PDL was supposed to develop American players. I was horrified to learn earlier this year that Canadian teams were in the PDL, and now have won the PDL.
    Nothing against Canada but they are our CONCACAF rivals and MLS, USL, PDL are OUR leagues. If they want a league they can start one themselves.

  3. undrafted says:

    MLS probably still loses a bit of money. I'm not sure how that's “greed”.

  4. Chris says:

    If you put that much energy into building better teams you wouldn't have to worry so much! Seriously though dosen't the increased competition just make the league better and therefore the American players better? It sounds like your afraid that the Canadian teams and players are just plain better that their American counterparts!(which we all know isn't true).
    It Seems very funny that NOW people are suddenly interested in Canadian teams in US leagues. Cross border soccer leagues have been going on for years(1967)
    As for FIFA stopping teams from one country playing in anothers leagues there are Welsh teams playing in the English FA so i don't think that is going to happen anytime soon.

  5. Joey Clams says:

    Don't you love it? Here we go again. Wales is in political union with England and it has its own league; Welsh teams that are part of the English ladder existed before that league. There is no political union between the United States and Canada, no shared currency or common labor laws.

  6. Chris says:

    What does Political Union have to do with Soccer?
    If you use that argument all EURO teams should be in the same league!

    I am just saying there have been Canadian teams in US soccer leagues since at least 1967 (it's nothing new get over it)
    Also the PCSL (US tier 4 for US based teams) is a CANADIAN league founded and centered in British Columbia since 1930 that has US member teams.

  7. BishopvilleRed says:

    I don't understand the anti- Canadian sentiment of some. What they fail to realise is, if they keep putting clubs in money losing situations (like all but 2-3 are experiencing), eventually, somebody is going to cry Uncle and there will be NO top tier league for US kids. You need to pick the best club offers to keep the league healthy and on the road to success. And maybe even profit.

    Just because Canadian teams apply does not make them shoo-ins. I still contend that the best financial package will get the clubs, American, Canadian or whatever. If they happen to be Canadian, so be it. If the league is stronger, American soccer is stronger too, even if it means boosting Canadian soccer a few millimetres at the same time.

    Eight more Americans have jobs as Footballers. What's wrong with that?

    The US has a bit of a Catch-22: If the city is big enough, it's already got a lot of competition for sports dollars, which will affect the draw. If it doesn't have dollar competition, it will not be perceived as a big enough city to be truly “major league” and fans won't draw or watch on TV. What's the old line? “Who wants to watch Los Angeles or New York v. Richmond or Rochester???” But Montreal? Vancouver? They're international cities, man. Sounds credible and “major league”.

    Speaking of Montreal, sounds like you've never been there Joey Clams. Trust me. You get there for one afternoon, you'll be ECSTATIC that MLS has given you an excuse to go back.


  8. Joey Clams says:

    Hang on, gang. I'm not anti-Canadian. I'm against Canadian teams in MLS. I'm for an all-American league.

  9. Joey Clams says:

    Dude, I went out with a broad from McGill (she was from Toronto, but, hey). My best friend's brother went there and we visited all the time. Montreal is a superb city. Toronto is, as well, but it's a little dull. Anyway, THIS ISN'T ABOUT WHICH CITIES ARE NICE CITIES. It's not even about the strength of the bid. There's a lake in Massachusetts. Its name is very long. The name means “You fish on your side of the lake and I'll fish on my side of the lake.” Now I don't mean to introduce the subject of maritime boundaries but can't you just fish on your side of the lake?

  10. Andrew Rawn says:

    I have to agree with Daniel. Canada will never get back to the World Cup until we have our own league. Taking what I call the Lenarduzzi approach (please refer to my response under “Toronto FC: Finally Canada’s Team” June 10, 2009) where our approach to development is reduced to being an appendage to an American system, we are doomed to forever being spectators at the world level. Shame on Lenarduzzi. BMO, I pulled my accounts because of your association with TFC and thank someone that I don’t have to rely on Saputo for cheese. It’s business interests like these three who are the real impediment to developing the game in Canada. Why can’t Canadian businessmen ever think of working within a Canadian context? Where is the real entrepreneurial spirit that would really build something of developmental value instead of taking the easy yet unproductive route of jumping on existing American band-waggons? And where is FIFA? It’s a bit of a double standard when they don’t allow the L.A. Salsa to join the Mexican league for the very reason that it would impede American development yet don’t do anything when Canadian business interests opt for participation in American leagues at the expense of development at our national level. Hats off to Joey Clams, Lewis and others of like opinion whom have been accused of being anti-Canadian. I just wish there were more like you to put pressure on your leagues not to include Canadian participation. That just might be the first step towards greater development of the game for both countries.

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