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Can Canada become a CONCACAF Superpower?

The Great White North. Home of Tim Horton’s, Bob and Doug MacKenzie, and the poutine.

When one thinks of Canada, one thinks of hockey. While the Stanley Cup hasn’t been won by a Canadian team for the past 17 years, the spirit of hockey is still alive north of the border. Canada still produced the best quality hockey players in the world, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now the United States seems to be one of Canada’s main rivals for producing hockey players.

But could Canada become a soccer superpower?

Obviously we know that there is a connection between soccer and Canada. Every time we flip on the Fox Soccer Report, we almost count how many time we hear Jeremy St. Louis say the traditional Canadian ‘oout’ and ‘aboout’. In addition, the MLS, NASL and USL have worked to put professional club soccer in Canada on the map.

And while the club teams continue to impress, with decent numbers, the Canadian Men’s National Team still remains one of the weak points in Canadian sports. Once I was listening to some Canadian comedian saying how Canada was so bad in soccer that “there were getting beat by kids in UNICEF shirts in poor African countries.”

Even though this is the case for Canada, the Great White North has the tool that it needs to become a soccer superpower. And what tool is that? Immigration.

Germany has done it with Polish-born Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, along with Brazilian born Cacau. Brazilian-born Eduardo plays for Croatia. Switzerland has a number of players that were born in different countries, including Zaire, Kosovo and Serbia. Even the United States experimented with immigrating players into their system, but failed with Frenchman David Regis.

While it is true that some teams look down at the immigration of new players into their system, like England, Italy and Spain, other teams have embraced it. Immigration has kept Germany a strong team actually, and they will just get stronger with time.

But unlike Italy, England or Spain, Canada doesn’t have any “soccer tradition” to defend. While the immigration of players to these other country’s might signal (in somebody’s mind) that it is the end of producing soccer quality inside their countries, thus they need to look outside it, Canada has rarely produced great soccer talent. Yes, they have had some good players, but nothing more than good.

But even if this is the case, why Canada? Why not other countries like Norway, Finland, Romania or some of the other weaker soccer nations in the world? Well, there are two main reasons….culture and language.

Let us remember, Canada is still part of the crown. Yes, it is it’s own ‘country’, but it is still part of the British Commonwealth.

How many times have we talked about visa issues regarding players coming from or going to the United States? Even players on the US Men’s National Team have problems securing visas to play in the European Union.

But for former youth players that might have played on the English U21, or whatever, National Team, but there were not able to make it on the Senior squad, immigration to Canada is easier than to other countries.

True, someone who currently plays for Manchester United might not want to make the move to Canada so that they can established residency. But chances are that someone at Manchester United is already on a senior squad anyway. But that doesn’t prevent players from smaller EPL clubs or League 1 clubs from making the journey. The only issue that they have to worry about then is money. Would they make as much money playing for, lets say, Charlton Athletic as they would with Toronto FC? That is where having a good agent would make a world’s worth of difference.

In addition to easier immigration, there is also a common language and common culture. They wouldn’t have to learn “Canadian”, they already speak English. In addition, their traditional ‘meat and potatoes’ diet is nearly the same in Canada as it is across the pond. Hell, in Canada, they would be able to eat better food as well.

And while knowing the English language might be an important draw for English-born players to Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia, what about French-born players?

True, France is not part of the British Commonwealth. But with Quebec almost being a country of its own (they even have their own immigration requirements), the Montreal Impact could work on bringing in some high-quality French youth players to their team. In turn, maybe they could turn this French talent (well, talented enough to be on a France “under” team, but not the senior squad) into more potential for a stronger Canadian National Team.

As of right now, the only problem with this whole scenario is salary. Could Edmonton FC, Toronto FC, Montreal Impact or Vancouver Whitecaps fork over the money to bring these players over? Well, we would have to ask the MLS. As far as the NASL, Edmonton and the future club at Hamilton will have a lot more room to actually negotiate a deal with these players to bring them to Canada.

If Canada plays their cards right, they could become a force in CONCACAF. They have the potential to immigrate in some decent players, if they wish. But what Canada needs to realize first is that they aren’t, have not been, and never will be a serious CONCACAF team relying on Canadian talent alone.

But they do have the tools to change all that.

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One Response

  1. Canada qualified for the 1986 World Cup and the 2001 Confederations Cup. I would love to see their national team grow in stature, and I think having three MLS teams by 2012 and at least one D2 team (in Edmonton), the future looks bright for the development of Canadian talent. Almost every country involved in the 2010 World Cup had players that were not born in the countries they represented.

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