Canadian soccer league system
The Canadian soccer pyramid is a term used in soccer to describe the structure of the league system in Canada. The governing body of soccer in the country is the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), which oversees the system and domestic cups (including the Canadian Championship or Voyageurs Cup) but does not operate any of its component leagues. For practical purposes Canadian teams are often members of leagues that are based primarily in the United States.
The professional league structure in Canada coincides with the league competitions of the neighbouring United States. Promotion and relegation does not occur between any league levels. Formally, Canada does not have a fully professional national league. The division one and two professional clubs in Canada compete in the Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup, which is the country's national championship trophy and which earns the winner the right to play in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The CSA has sanctioned the second version of the Canadian Soccer League (CSL) as Division 3; it is set up as a semi-professional league in Canada. The CSL has wanted to become the largest national domestic league. It has, however, always been a league based in southern Ontario, often with one team in Quebec and occasional teams in Ottawa. It has been the highest level domestic league below the Canadian teams competing in American leagues since at least 2010.
Professional leagues background
After the collapse of the original North American Soccer League (1968–1984), and Canada's participation in the 1986 FIFA World Cup the original Canadian Soccer League (1987–92) started operations. When the original CSL folded, in 1993 three Canadian teams moved to the American Professional Soccer League (APSL) where several had played preseason games and competed in post season tournaments. When Major League Soccer (MLS) won the USSF's competition for Division 1 status in 1993 in the USA, the APSL lost teams in Denver, Los Angeles, and New York when MLS started three years later in 1996. Canadian teams continued to participate in the APSL and subsequently with the United Soccer Leagues merger in the A League / USL-1. FIFA did not allow the US Division 1 sanctioned league to include foreign teams which was why the APSL was never officially recognized as Division 1 before MLS.
US Soccer made sustainable gains after their 2002 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal appearance. By the mid 2000s, the US (and by extension Canadian) soccer landscape was changing with competitors to the United Soccer Leagues arising such as the U.S. Soccer Development Academy starting in 2007 or strengthening such as the resurgence of Major League Soccer (MLS). Stronger USL-1 sides became frustrated by what they perceived as lack of ambition and a restrictive structure of the United Soccer Leagues. With the introduction of designated players, Soccer United Marketing, expansion of MLS in 2005, and larger attendances in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games versus MLS sides, the stronger USL-1 sides became less competitive with MLS sides on and off the field. For example MLS looked to move into USL-1 markets with the higher marketing power and based on US Open Cup results, better play. With the decision to introduce a Canadian club to MLS, with Toronto FC joining in 2006, the Toronto Lynx self relegated from the USL-1 and began playing in the amateur-only USL Premier Development League (PDL). Frustration eventually resulted in the USSF Division 2 Professional League in 2010 and a new league, the North American Soccer League. As part of the changing soccer landscape, two long time USL-1 Canadian clubs purchased franchises in MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC joined in 2011 and the Montreal Impact joined in 2012.
One of the other original CSL teams did not join the APSL, they joined the National Soccer League based in southern Ontario. The National Soccer League renamed itself the Canadian National Soccer League (CNSL) with the addition of an out of province team. The CNSL had four teams found the second league named the Canadian Professional Soccer League (1998-2006) or CPSL with four other new teams. In 2006, the CPSL teams restarted in a new league, the second Canadian Soccer League (CSL). This second version of the CSL moved its sanctioning from the Ontario Soccer Association to the Canadian Soccer Association in 2009.
Below division two, the soccer competitions in Canada are mostly regionally-based due to its large geography and dispersed pockets of population. There are two Division 3 Canadian-based semi-professional leagues, the Première Ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ) and the Canadian Soccer League (CSL). During 2012 the CSL was in Ontario, with one team in Quebec. The PLSQ is based in the Montreal area and Gatineau.
Also in Ontario, the Toronto Lynx, Kitchener-Waterloo United FC, and Forest City London compete in the Great Lakes Division of the U23 USL Premier Development League or PDL, a US-based league. In northwest Ontario, the Thunder Bay Chill compete with the WSA Winnipeg of Manitoba in the PDL's Heartland Division. Clubs in British Columbia mostly compete in the Pacific Coast Soccer League while another West coast club, the Victoria Highlanders compete in the U23 PDL against a Whitecaps team and other teams in Oregon and Washington State.
There are 12 provincial soccer associations in Canada with a number of leagues organized as amateur competitions at adult and/or youth levels. Typically there are league and cup competitions in each provincial region.
Canadian Championship (Voyageurs Cup): Levels 1-2 (Eligible teams selected by the CSA)
The Challenge Trophy (Men): Level 4/5 (includes PCSL at level 4)
The Jubilee Shield (Women): Level 4
The USL PDL and W-League at Level 4 and 2 are not eligible for any national cup competition. Reserve or second teams from these clubs often play in local amateur leagues and are eligible for the Challenge Trophy and Jubilee Shield.
Clubs competing at Level 3 are also not currently eligible for either the amateur or professional cups.
Men's league system
For practical purposes, both Canada and the United States use a similar pyramid structure, with Major League Soccer (MLS) as Division 1 and the North American Soccer League (NASL) as Division 2, with no promotion or relegation between the two. Canada's five professional clubs (Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Montreal Impact, FC Edmonton & Ottawa Fury FC) compete at these two levels.
In February 2010, the Canadian Soccer League was granted full membership by the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and sanctioned as a semi-professional league. Sitting behind MLS and the NASL, the CSL operated as one of the Division 3 leagues within the Canadian pyramid. However, following the release of a development study and subsequent change in CSA policy for the future growth and development of regional leagues, also coinciding with match fixing allegations in 2012, the CSL was de-sanctioned by the CSA in 2013 and would not be considered a sanctioned semi-pro league for the 2014 season.
The Première Ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ) was founded as a semi-pro league in 2012, also as Division 3, with five teams and plays May to September. In 2013 the league expanded by two teams and will stream all games over the internet.
The Canadian Championship competition, established in 2008, awards the national trophy, the fan-created Voyageurs Cup, and determines the Canadian representative at the CONCACAF Champions League, the region's largest club tournament. Currently, the Association has limited the Canadian Championship to the country's five professional clubs at the D1 & D2 levels for the 2014 edition.
The United Soccer Leagues (USL) manages several leagues, including the amateur USL Premier Development League (PDL). The PDL is sanctioned and administered under the USASA, along with the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Both leagues are considered Division 4 in the American league system, although currently only the PDL features Canadian clubs in competition. Both leagues are effectively a short 2.5 month season for post-secondary players following their collegiate commitments.
The Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL) similarly operates with both Canadian and American clubs, although on a much smaller scale, featuring only one American team and being primarily located in the Pacific Northwest.
At Level 5 there are various amateur provincial leagues that are sanctioned under their individual provincial or territorial associations. This includes such leagues as the Vancouver Island Soccer League, Vancouver Metro Soccer League, Fraser Valley Soccer League, Alberta Major Soccer League, Saskatchewan Premier Soccer League, Manitoba Major Soccer League, Ontario League West, Ontario League East, Ligue de Soccer Elite Quebec, Nova Scotia Soccer League, and New Brunswick Premier Senior Soccer League. This collection of leagues across the country collectively compete for the national Challenge Trophy.
In order to limit the Americanization of all of Canada's professional soccer clubs, the CSA issued a moratorium on the sanctioning of any new Division 2, 3, or 4 teams on November 15, 2010, with the ban set to last until September 30, 2011. Despite the moratorium, the NASL announced that Ottawa had been awarded a franchise on June 20, 2011.
In 2013, following the release of "The Easton Report," the CSA set out to create a regionalized Division 3 semi-pro structure, similar to the major junior hockey leagues in Canada, with regional champions competing in a national tournament. In November 2013, the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) announced plans to sanction League 1 Ontario as part of this new structure.
16 Canadian National Women's Team players are paid by the CSA to play in the National Women's Soccer League as part of a joint venture with the USSF and FMF. Canadian players can also play in the league as part of the international quota.
The USL manages several leagues, including the women's W-League. The W-League is administered under the USASA along with the WPSL. The W-League and WPSL are effectively a Division 2; refer to the United States soccer league system. These leagues are 2.5 month long leagues with mainly post-secondary players.
|Level||Leagues or Divisions|
Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL)
The Jubilee Trophy
- "CSL looks to field a true national league". www.vancouversun.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-11-02.
- "Toronto Lynx a costly labour of love". www.sportsnews24h.com. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
- "Canada Looks to MLS Expansion as Aid to International Success". www.nytimes.com. 2010-11-19. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
- "2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship". Canadian Soccer Association. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "CSL Granted Full National Membership in CSA". MilltownFC.ca. 2010-02-24. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
- >"Canadian soccer an easy target for match fixing". CBC News. September 12, 2012. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
- "Canadian Soccer League to fight CSA decertification". TheGlobeAndMail.com. March 5, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
- Dugas, Michel (28 February 2013). "TOUS LES MATCHS DE LA PREMIÈRE LIGUE DE SOCCER DU QUÉBEC SERONT WEBDIFFUSÉS EN DIRECT". Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- Duane Rollins (2010-11-15). "CSA puts brakes on future D2 sanctioning in US leagues". Canadian Soccer News. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
- "Ottawa to Join NASL". North American Soccer League. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
- "OSA will sanction semi-pro League One". CanadianSoccerNews.com. November 16, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2013.