For a long time there has been a large obstacle placed in front of some of Canada’s most talented young soccer players. Authentic Bobby Ryan Jersey
. How will they develop further if they can’t play games? The growth of professional clubs across our country in the last few years and their investment in development has been great to see, but now a missing piece of the puzzle has been added. On Friday, Vancouver Whitecaps launched Whitecaps FC 2, a new team playing in USL PRO, the third tier of North American soccer. That follows recent announcements by Montreal Impact and Toronto FC who will also be launching USL PRO teams starting next year. With all three of Canada’s Major League Soccer clubs committing to this step, it will provide massive benefit to some of our country’s top young players, giving them the opportunity to play regularly in competitive matches. In the past, players just haven’t had enough time out on the pitch playing at a standard that will help them to continue to develop in the best way possible, so this provides a much needed link between the club’s academy programs and their MLS teams. Whitecaps assistant coach Gordon Forrest led the club’s residency program before making the step to the first team and he is well aware just how significant the arrival of a USL PRO team will be. “It’s a fantastic day,” said Forrest after the announcement. “It is a massive piece of the player pathway that we have been looking for at the club. The USL team will service a number of needs for players within the whole club.” “This is so important to take that next step for players to try and progress to the first team. It will be a great challenge for them, there will be some great games and great environments and it is what we really need to make sure they are ready to play in the first team,” added Forrest. The sentiment is the same in Toronto where former Canadian international Jason Bent was this week named as head coach for the club’s new USL PRO team. “I feel this pathway will help us bridge the gap between the academy and first team level and enable some talented young men, especially Canadian players, to really learn their trade and develop into legitimate first team players,” said Bent. When launching their new team FC Montreal, Impact President Joey Saputo acknowledged the ability for this new level of competition to change the landscape of player development for young Canadians. “It is a major change in our structure and the development of soccer in Quebec,” he said. “This new team will serve as the final step and transition for our young players before joining MLS. We believe it is the best way to prepare them for the top league in North American soccer.” With all three Canadian clubs basing their USL PRO teams in close proximity to their MLS teams, it will allow good integration between the squads. It will also be of benefit to senior players who are on the fringes of the first team or needing games to get match fitness after injury. There are now seven MLS clubs that have launched USL Pro franchises with the three Canadian clubs joined by LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. While there is no doubt the addition of USL PRO teams will be benefit for the Impact, Whitecaps and Toronto FC, Canada’s national team program will also reap the rewards in the longer term. It is a big financial commitment from the clubs, but it will be well worth it in the long run. There are certainly exciting times ahead as we get the opportunity to see young Canadian talent compete and develop in USL PRO. Erik Karlsson Senators Jersey
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