The Canadian Premier League (CPL) came to Winnipeg last week, bringing news of a draft to take place in less than a month.
The league was staging the Winnipeg leg of the #GotGame Open Trials. The trials are open tryouts for young soccer talent hoping to catch the eye of CPL coaches and management. Tryouts are being held in each CPL region.
The event in Winnipeg saw one of the largest turnouts so far, according Winnipeg’s Valour FC head coach Rob Gale.
“There were people queuing up at 7:30 this morning to register,” he said.
“Over 220 players — it’s one of the highest turnouts and we’ve had to turn people away. So it just shows the appetite for soccer in this city which I’m extremely proud of.”
The 220 players were split into 10 groups for the event, with three small scrimmages being played in fields set up between the end zones at IGF.
The remaining four groups ran a multitude of drills in the end zones, including speed trials, agility tests, passing drills and shot speed tests.
Gale has kept an eye on all trials held so far and did not give specifics on the number of players he expected to choose from the Winnipeg trials.
“We try not to limit it because the talent, you know, could be anything,” he said.
“And I think last week in Toronto we were down on senior talent but had more future players under 20. So I think from the four trials so far we’ve had about 20 players that we think, and maybe a third or 10 [are] future players.”
However, Gale said he was disappointed with the lack of high-level soccer in the province.
“Very simply not good enough because we haven’t got the programs to lose,” he said.
“The U of W one last year was a big blow, and we’d urge them now with this pathway to reinstate that program.”
“I think it’s a good investment. We would love more, we need more U Sports,” he said.
“You can see by the level of players here — other than [World Soccer Academy Winnipeg] and the [Professional Development League] — there’s not been that avenue before for players. And we need those staging posts along the way that would be building blocks for them to come into our level.”
The U of M does not currently have a men’s soccer program and the University of Winnipeg Wesmen has put its men’s soccer program on hiatus as a cost-cutting measure. Meanwhile, the Brandon Bobcats and Red River Rebels play in the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference, outside of U Sports.
The draft: U Sports rewrites rules for the CPL
Prior to the open trials in Winnipeg, the CPL sent out a press release to announce the first annual CPL-U Sports Draft. The draft will take place Nov. 12, after the U Sports men’s soccer championship.
Players will only be eligible for the draft if they have a year or more left of U Sports eligibility remaining, with players graduating presumably being considered as free agents.
Selected players will sign what the league calls a “CPL-U Sports Developmental Contract” which lasts a single year.
This contract will allow a chosen player to spend time playing for their new CPL club, while retaining that year in eligibility at the U Sports level.
Following the end of a club’s season, the contract expires and the player must choose either to sign a standard player contract with the CPL club or return to their U Sports program.
The player — if they meet the league’s draft eligibility rules — then re-enters the draft the following year and begins the process again.
This partnership between the CPL and U Sports essentially re-writes the U Sports rules on player eligibility.
According to the current U Sports regulations on athlete eligibility, men’s soccer players participating “in a regular season or playoff or cup competition” in any professional league must wait a year before entering a U Sports program. Those players are also charged a year of eligibility.