Sports

Canadians to become domestic players on Major League Soccer club rosters

TORONTO — The Canadian Soccer Association and MLS have made changes that they hope will pave the path for Canada to one day play in the men's World Cup.

"I said in '06 (when Toronto FC joined MLS) and I'll say it now, I don't think our job will be done until Canada on the men's side qualifies for the World Cup," said Major League Soccer's commissioner Don Garber.

Thus, Canadians will no longer be considered international players for MLS teams, provided the players meet certain criteria.

And the Generation Adidas program will now expand into Canada, to identify top young domestic talent. Generation Adidas players can enter the MLS SuperDraft early, they're usually paid significantly more than the league minimum, and their salaries don't count against the team's cap.

A Canadian player will now count as a domestic player as long as he became a member of a MLS club academy, either in the U.S. or Canada, or a Canadian approved youth club in the year prior to the year in which he turned 16. The CSA will identify the several dozen youth programs across the country to develop players.

Garber and CSA president Victor Montagliani made the announcement Wednesday at BMO Field ahead of Toronto FC's Eastern Conference final game visiting Montreal Impact.

The domestic rule is aimed at young players who've come up through academy programs, and will open up more spots for young Canadian players. Some 30 per cent of Canadians currently in the league becoming domestics overnight, including Toronto FC's Jordan Hamilton and Montreal's David Choiniere.

There are currently 160 international spots among the league's 20 teams.

"This is an exciting time for the sport here in this country," Garber said. "What has happened over the last number of months is nothing short of remarkable, it's why we came to the city with expansion in '06, then moving up in Vancouver and Montreal."

Garber praised television numbers and ticket sales for the trio of Canadian franchises.  

"Now we're going to get underneath all that and use our energy to try and develop more players through our club programs," he said.

Canadian-approved youth clubs, meanwhile, do not have to be affiliated with an MLS club. MLS will make available a complete list of qualifying youth clubs at a later date.

"It will give us the opportunity to drive the proper culture in our clubs," Montagliani said. "Whereas clubs are not just about winning provincial championships or national championships, they're looking at developing players."