CSA Priorities For 2003

Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Soccer Association President Andy Sharpe today issued a statement which addresses CSA views on a number of domestic issues, including professional soccer in Canada, possible Major League Soccer expansion in Canada, the need for a national soccer stadium in Toronto and the number of games being played in Canada.
In this month of February, 2003, no less than six of our national teams will be competing in various locales ranging from Libya, Florida, California, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the United Arab Emirates. Our Women’s World Cup Team is about to embark on a comprehensive preparation period towards the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China, our Men’s Youth Team will compete in its second consecutive World Youth Championship and our Men’s Junior Team will attempt to qualify for the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in a qualifying tournament in Victoria, BC in March. Our Women’s Under-19 Team, having reached the association’s first FIFA final in 2002, will have no less than four projects in the United States and Europe as they prepare for the 2004 FIFA Women’s World Championship. Our Men’s World Cup team will play friendlies in Libya, Estonia and Germany and another possibly in Jamaica before competing in their third Gold Cup in less than three and a half years.

Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Soccer Association President Andy Sharpe today issued a statement which addresses CSA views on a number of domestic issues, including professional soccer in Canada, possible Major League Soccer expansion in Canada, the need for a national soccer stadium in Toronto and the number of games being played in Canada.
In this month of February, 2003, no less than six of our national teams will be competing in various locales ranging from Libya, Florida, California, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and the United Arab Emirates. Our Women’s World Cup Team is about to embark on a comprehensive preparation period towards the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China, our Men’s Youth Team will compete in its second consecutive World Youth Championship and our Men’s Junior Team will attempt to qualify for the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in a qualifying tournament in Victoria, BC in March. Our Women’s Under-19 Team, having reached the association’s first FIFA final in 2002, will have no less than four projects in the United States and Europe as they prepare for the 2004 FIFA Women’s World Championship. Our Men’s World Cup team will play friendlies in Libya, Estonia and Germany and another possibly in Jamaica before competing in their third Gold Cup in less than three and a half years.
So while our increasing number of national teams compete in more and more projects and while our sport enjoys record registration figures which makes it the highest participation sport in Canada, it is important for us to attack the challenges which have arisen as a result of the tremendous growth of our sport.
There has been much discussion and speculation recently on the status of professional soccer in Canada. Recently we met with Commissioner Dave Askinas of the United Soccer League. We indicated to him that while we are pleased to have four A-League clubs in Canada, it is imperative that we expand A-League presence in our country in the near future. We have a professional league in Canada – the A-League – and it is our objective now to see at least six Canadian clubs by 2005 as a minimum target. Already, we are aware of one serious application that has been made to the A-League with at least two to three other groups in consultation with the USL.
We have reached an understanding with the A-League that once six Canadian clubs are in the league, then these clubs would be aligned into a Canadian Division of the A-League (even if they do not play a geographically balanced schedule).
We welcome the expansion of the A-League across Canada and we are now working closely with them in this regard.
At the same time, we are also encouraged by the recent growth of W-League franchises across the country, thus supporting the infrastructure of our national women’s team program. As part of the USL’s network of clubs, we are again working in partnership with this group to see even more teams across Canada in years to come, joining the Vancouver Breakers, Ottawa Fury and Toronto Inferno. Similarly, we are also monitoring the evolution of the Women’s United Soccer Association and its potential for expansion to Canada in future years.
Our women’s players must be presented with an equal opportunity to play in professional soccer in order for our players to help them realize their full potential and better prepare them for the challenges of international soccer.
We are also hard at work developing our formal bid to FIFA to host the Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2007 with a new, state of the art 30,000 seat natural grass stadium in Toronto being the focal point alongside Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium (the latter of which would certainly host the Final).
The other major issue affecting and hindering our continued growth is the lack of proper facilities to play soccer in Canada. It is imperative that we pursue every opportunity towards the construction of a soccer-specific stadium in Toronto.
The City of Edmonton, and Commonwealth Stadium, has irrevocably and convincingly demonstrated it can host international soccer. We now need an Eastern-based facility in addition to Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and Vancouver’s Swangard. The demolition of University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium has accentuated this need. We also look forward to returning to Centre Claude Robillard (Montreal) this summer with an international friendly between the Women’s World Cup teams of Canada and South Korea.
We are extremely hard at work on this soccer-specific stadium in Toronto via the support from FIFA through its Goal Project Program.
We have noted the continued development of such leagues as the Professional Development League in Western Canada and the Canadian Professional Soccer League in Ontario which continue to expand and underline the necessity for our skilled and capable players to play above the amateur level. It is a fact of soccer life in Canada that players who have ambitions to play the game at the highest possible level must go abroad. While this may hold true for a certain number of our players, for the others this cannot be allowed to continue.
The enduring success of Major League Soccer in the United States has been its impressive ability to develop domestic players so they can be more competitive at the international level. That point was driven home by the US performance in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
It is with this in mind, and the obvious necessity of having a full time tenant in any future Toronto soccer stadium, that the CSA has recently become actively involved in efforts to bring a MLS franchise, comprised mostly of Canadian players, to Toronto in the near future.
A MLS franchise in Toronto would allow for the top 20-30 Canadian players to have an option of playing at the highest professional level in North America in front of a home crowd. It would also provide a regular tenant to a soccer-specific stadium which could act as one of the future sites for international friendlies and tournaments and championships.
Much has been said about the lack of home games played by our Men’s World Cup Team. It is clear we must play more games in Canada. The combination of player availability, lack of proper facilities in Eastern Canada, travel restrictions and an increasingly demanding international calendar, such as the CONCACAF Gold Cup, have created complications and obstacles in hosting games in Canada.
We had hoped to stage a game in Edmonton in May, 2003 but have not had any success in securing a top level opponent. In addition, the German Football Federation presented us with a unique opportunity which we could not refuse, that of facing the current World Cup Finalists in Germany on June 1. These factors, along with the Gold Cup being played in the summer, have combined to make it unlikely for us to play at home in 2003. We look forward to 2004 when we will play a number of preparation games in Canada prior to embarking on our World Cup Qualifying campaign.
As a result, our Women’s World Cup Team, which does not face the player availability issues our men’s team does, will play a minimum of four games in Canada as they prepare for the World Cup and those games will take place in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. When ongoing discussions are completed we hope to stage even more games across all the regions of Canada.
Victoria will be the host city for the CONCACAF Men’s Under-17 Qualifying Tournament in March, 2003. The city was host to the CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Qualifying Tournament in February, 2001 and was one of the venues at last year’s Women’s Gold Cup. Canada also hosted the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Championship in 2002 and has begun preliminary discussions and planning for bidding to host a venue for the 2005 Gold Cup and the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The success of these ventures, and attracting future high profile international events, could well depend on our ability to secure a state of the art soccer stadium in Toronto as well as in other locations across the country.
As the sport of soccer enjoys record visibility, interest and growth in our country, it is imperative that we strengthen our existing infrastructure, but we must also aim to build new support structures if our sport is able to reach its almost limitless potential in Canada. This is the challenge of the CSA.
Andy Sharpe
President
Canadian Soccer Association

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