Canadian Soccer Association

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CONCACAF refuses to sanction Canadian team in USL

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The best part of soccer is definitely the politics, amirite?

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to avoid the CONCACAF palace intrigue inside of Wednesday’s news out of Ottawa, where CONCACAF has decided not to sanction the Ottawa Fury for 2019 play in the USL.

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As a refresher, there are Canadian professional teams in three separate leagues right now. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, and Toronto FC are in Major League Soccer, seven teams are slated to kick off the Canadian Premier League (CPL) in 2019, and the Ottawa Fury participate in the United Soccer League.

Or do they?

CONCACAF has informed the Fury that it will not be sanctioned for play in the USL this season, with the new CPL billed as a Tier 1 league that takes away the “exceptional circumstance” that allows Ottawa to participate in another nation’s league (the USL). Ottawa has played in the USL in 2017 and 2018 after playing its first three seasons in the on-hiatus NASL.

The main controversies from this ruling are serious concerns for both the CPL, USL, CONCACAF, FIFA, and the many staffers and players who work for the Ottawa Fury:

  1. In a press release regarding the decision, Ottawa pointed out that CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani is “the former president of Canada Soccer, where he was the chief promoter of the new Canadian Premier League (CPL) that will start play in 2019.”
  2. Per The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio, “The USL is in the final stages of scheduling for the 2019 season. In addition, Ottawa has sold more than 1,500 tickets in the midst of its renewal campaign, and has 12 players under contract, with several other deals pending according to (Ottawa CEO Mark) Goudie.”

So, yeah, not a great look. The Montagliani point alone scuttles the logical floor of CONCACAF’s argument.

Ottawa’s decision to stay in the USL in lieu of joining the upstart CPL — a league we must say is looking very promising — came after plenty of negotiation. In September, CPL commissioner David Clanachan said the other clubs were willing to let Ottawa operate for the 2019 season under the same parameters that governed their planned USL campaign.

As the Ottawa press release states, however, there was neither a protest from the Canadian Soccer Association nor the United States Soccer Federation, but this decision came from above: CONCACAF.

That’s tricky, especially since three Canadian teams play in Major League Soccer, and there has been talk that Liga MX teams could join with it to make a North American super league (though such a league could exist while its teams participate in domestic leagues, and goodness knows it couldn’t be called the NASL).

And what about Toronto FC II playing in USL League One, as well as several amateur teams in the newly-rebranded USL League Two (formerly the PDL).

Cans and cans of worms, potentially, yes?

It seems likely that this move isn’t about this season, and that the Fury will be strong-armed into joining the CPL for the 2020 season while being allowed to participate in the USL in 2019.

And let’s face it: As unjust as this ruling seems to be, the U.S. and Canada are among the only higher level leagues in the world where teams cross borders to play.

The biggest exceptions are Monaco playing in France’s Ligue 1; Cardiff City, Swansea City, and Newport County play in the Football League. That likely saves the MLS teams, at least until the CPL grows into newer, pricier boots. And can’t teams like the Fury make an argument about Welsh side Newport playing in England’s fourth tier (maybe the argument is tough to make without an open, promotion and relegation system).

North American soccer: Growing sport, growing leagues, just as much confusion.

Canadian SA responds to brutal allegations from women’s players

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Can you imagine, even for a second, Mexican World Cup hero Guillermo Ochoa being threatened with his national team status for filing a law suit? Do you think it’s reasonable to think legal action from Yohan Cabaye or Paul Pogba could end up costing France a chance to host the World Cup?

That’s what a law suit from a group of international female players alleges, only with the genders flipped. One month after a group spearheaded by Abby Wambach and Nadine Angerer filed a law suit to get next summer’s World Cup on turf, the Canadian Soccer Association is being forced to answer allegations that threats have been made against several top women’s players in regards to their association with the legal action.

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Canada Soccer says the allegations are “completely baseless.” Here’s what the players are saying.

From the Associated Press:

The players allege that Mexican international Teresa Noyola and French internationals Camille Abily and Elise Bussaglia had been threatened with reprisals.

Noyola, according to the filing, was told she would not be invited to play for the Mexican national team unless she withdrew her name from the legal challenge. Abily and Bussaglia “were led to believe that their continued participation in this action would lead to retaliation by FIFA in the awarding of the 2019 women’s World Cup.”

France is seeking to host the 2019 World Cup.

All three have since pulled out of the complaint, although lawyers for the group said 20 players have stepped forward to replace them.

The players also allege that Costa Rican internationals Diana Saenz and Katherine Alvarado, along with a third unidentified player, were told by Costa Rican Federation officials “that their participation put their positions on the team in jeopardy as a result of pressure from CSA and FIFA.”

If true in any way, it’s truly aggravating. I’m not in the crowd that says it’s crazy and hurtful that FIFA isn’t overhauling the turf.  But this is terribly uncool just to read, let alone have it be fact.

Can Benito Floro lead Canada to promised land?

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Big news for Canadian national team fans, as the Canucks took a huge step forward by finally appointing a new head coach.

After nine months without a boss, former Real Madrid coach Benito Floro is now Canada’s national soccer coach.

Floro, 61, was unveiled during a press conference in Toronto, as the Canadian national team made a huge statement of intent moving forward. Remember, Canada has not qualified for a World Cup since 1986 and their last big achievement was winning the Gold Cup in 2000.

He succeeds Stephen Hart, who left in October following the team’s humiliating exit from World Cup qualifying. The Canadian men’s team is ranked 88th by FIFA.

Floro coached Spanish giants Real Madrid from 1992 to 1994. He most recently coached WAC in Morocco but previously took charge of Villarreal, Sporting Gijon, Real Mallorca in Spain and Mexican side Monterrey.

The Canadian Soccer Association said it is “thrilled” to have “such an accomplished soccer mind” running the team. And in a rather unusual twist, Floro will be assisted by son Antonio Floro Esteve.

Interim head coach Colin Miller will take charge of Canada’s Gold Cup charge, before Floro takes charge later this month. However the Spaniard has got his work cut out to turn the Canuck’s into World Cup contenders.

But it is achievable.

Canada’s squad have definitely underachieved, winning just one of their last eight games and failing to reach the final stage of World Cup qualifying for the second straight time.

However the players coming through the ranks will give Floro hope that he can turn the nation’s fortunes around. But does his appointment spell the end for veterans Julian de Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario?

Obviously those two, along with Atiba Hutchinson, deserve to be part of a new setup that could flourish. But in my mind Floro needs to try and nurture the top young talent his possesses and mold a new way of playing that will suit Canada’s skillful individuals.

If you look through the Canadian roster, they are stacked with players who have vast experience playing in some of Europe’s top leagues. But Floro needs to nurture the talents of the younger guys, the likes of Jonathan Osorio, Ashtone Morgan and Russel Teibert if a new look Canada will emerge under his leadership.

Osorio, Morgan and Teibert are all Canadian and all play in Canada. They should become the heart and soul of a new look team.

Floro will undoubtedly watch on with great intrigue this summer as a young Canadian squad aim for glory at the Gold Cup.

Whether or not that achieve that isn’t of great importance any more. It seems as though, finally, a bright future is on the horizon for Canadian soccer.

Another wrinkle to Canada vs. Sydney Leroux: Player drops racism bomb via Twitter

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People reasonably assumed Sydney Leroux’s tweet, sent in the wake of the U.S.’s 3-0 victory at BMO Field, referenced the crowd in Toronto. Let’s not be too rash. As we discussed yesterday, Canadian soccer fans’ problems with the U.S. international extend well beyond Sunday’s game. She first appeared for the senior team in 2011, was cap-tied in early 2012, and was playing for U.S. youth teams well before that. Sunday may have been her first appearance in Toronto, but Leroux’s abuse from disappointed Canadians is a well-established phenomenon.

In case you missed what happened yesterday: Leroux, a Canadian-born U.S. international, came on to boos in the 74th minute. Every touch, she was booed. In stoppage time, she scored a goal, turned to the crowd and lifted her shirt’s U.S. crest in celebration before holding her finger to her lips, shushing the boos (and worse, via this NSFW audio).

Again, this isn’t necessarily about booing a player or sending random Twitter barbs to somebody’s account. This is about the aspects that transcend typical practice. This isn’t about one player’s otherwise commonplace celebration (please spare the Robin van Persie comparisons; they’re inapplicable here). It’s about the xenophobic in-game commentary from Sportsnet. It’s about inappropriately personal commentary that crossed the line of reasonable broadcaster inquiry. It’s about potential racism claims, all of which go beyond fans being fans.

And it’s important to keep in mind that, at this point, this is just potential racism. What people hear is often different from what was said, and personal interpretation adds another layer of potential obfuscation. The Canadian Soccer Association will pursue this, as will U.S. Soccer, and if there is something to what Leroux is claiming, it may well apply to last January’s Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver. Or the barrage of negativity Leroux deals with on social media. As with her celebration, Leroux’s tweet represents the culmination of years of conflict. We can’t assume Toronto.

I’m cynical enough to assume every prominent player of color has at one point overheard some insecure moron mouthing off from the wrong end of of their blood alcohol level. Idiots like this (NSFW) existed before Sunday’s goal, oo when I see claims like Leroux’s hit the world, I tend to believe them, think they happen more than we know, but also just shake my head in disappointment at a world so ignorant that racism’s become a “yeah, of course that happened” occurrence. I don’t think this will ever stop; rather, we have to continue a dialog that leads to an world where such behaviors are increasingly unacceptable.

If the latest incident happening in Toronto, the CSA and USSF have an opportunity to send a message, if not take some kind of action against whomever said it. If Leroux’s referencing something from the past, unfortunately, this is a topic for discussion, not investigation. Regardless, and beyond the Leroux incident, we need to consider why people still feel entitled to bring hate speech into the public realm. Odds are our own  “yeah, of course” attitudes are part of the problem.