Soccer is life. That is to say, it is in every country not named “Canada” or “the United States of America.” It is often called “the beautiful game” and it is coming to Canada in the form of a professional league. This is not the first time (if anyone remembers the ill-fated Canadian Soccer League that started in 1987 and folded in 1992), but it does bode well that Canada is a co-host for the World Cup in 2026.
We Canadians already have professional teams in our 3 major markets but this would be our league. We can claim ownership of it.
The World Cup has never been given to a host that didn’t have a pro league until the USA hosted in 1994. They only won the bid at the time because of their promise to develop the game from the grassroots up and institute a professional league of their own. Presto; Major League Soccer was born in 1993.
On the 6th of May, 2017, the Canadian Soccer Association announced the league using the headline “Canada Soccer enters new era with approval of Canadian Premier League”. There are 10 cities who expressed their expression of interest with Winnipeg and Hamilton leading the way.
My humble city of Halifax is one of the others. This is particularly exciting to me because I’ve been involved with soccer for most of my life. I played (poorly) for years. I have refereed (some would also say ‘poorly’) for even longer. I’ve also lived in Halifax for most of my life and come to the realization that we are a great sports town but the situation has to be right.
There was an American Hockey League team here for years under various guises but they never drew large or consistent crowds. In 1994 the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League arrived in town with the Halifax Moosehead’s and they have truly owned the sports scene here ever since.
This Halifax-based Canadian Premier League soccer team is being planned with our city’s track record in mind, and I hope each of the other cities is doing themselves a favour and not overreaching either. A request for a 5,000 to 8,000 person stadium has been tabled and shows promise of going forward on a legendary field here in Halifax known as The Wanderers Grounds. The grounds have already been home to many sports teams for more than a century, including the Halifax Rugby Football Club who play there presently. They would not be displaced but would be welcome to continue in the new modern stadium (Win/Win). Lacrosse is also a growing sport in Nova Scotia and they would also be invited to make this their home.
League play is scheduled to start in 2018 with at least 6 teams, while the others will join for the 2019 season. The National teams will benefit at the top of this pyramid but it’s truly the young player 12 or 13 years old that will now have something tangible to hope for. Our Canadian youth won’t have to stop playing when they turn 19 or hope for a scholarship in the US. They can stay home, while still playing their game professionally.
Who wins out of this: Everyone.
Who loses out of this: No-one.