Building team culture in Canadian Premier League

A weekly sports column for the 100 Mile Free Press

David Clanachan, the commissioner of the Canadian Premier League (CPL), revealed the inaugural seven teams in the league will have a roster size of 20-23 players with a maximum size of seven foreign players (including Americans).

It’s interesting how this will shake out for a couple different reasons, one being the debate between whether or not having more international players will hurt the development of Canadian players (and the league), or if it will help the league by attracting more higher calibre players from overseas.

Of course, it will be a good decade before the likes of a tired and battered David Beckham-like character will walk on Victoria’s Pacific FC’s roster, but it could be possible. After all, it happened for Major League Soccer, but the American-based league has been active since 1996 and there have been a few professional leagues leading up to that.

So far, the highest profile player is Marcus Haber, a Vancouverite striker who has played in the MLS as well as West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League and English Football League Championship. Haber has also turned out for several top-flight Scottish Clubs such as Dundee and St. Johnstone.

The other interesting part of the foreign player rule is how team culture could develop. All the teams except FC Edmonton are completely new. However, after leaving the North American Soccer League in 2017 (the league went in hiatus the same year) their roster was emptied.

As of Jan. 20, the seven teams have uncompleted rosters with only 38 players signed between them. With the league starting in April, there should be a fury of signings.

Depending and where some players are signed from can give a window into what systems and type of gameplay individual teams may use.

For example, HFX Wanderers FC is coached by Stephen Hart, a Trinidadian who managed both Canada’s and Trinidad and Tobago’s national men’s teams in the past. His squad currently has four players from his country of birth and only two Canadians so far.

So it’s likely that Hart will instruct the Halifax team to play with some Caribbean flair, much like how the game is played in South America, opposed to the emphasis on conditioning played in the U.S. and Canada. It will also be interesting to see if the last three international spots will go to players from Trinidad and Tobago, other Caribbean countries or different countries altogether.

Only Pacific FC, B.C.’s lone representative in the league, has no international players so far. All five signings so far are also from British Columbia. With the coach (Michael Silberbaur) being Danish, could we see a trend of Scandinavian players join the team and supplementing a large contingent of local players? It could be possible.

Calvary FC (based in Calgary) is also favouring locally-based players with five from Alberta (two remaining players signed are from Brazil and Ontario).

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