It’s a mantra which has long been supported by Valour FC. And the Canadian Premier League’s further enhanced commitment to developing young talent in this country has earned an enthusiastic thumbs up GM and head coach Rob Gale.
Earlier this week the CPL announced a tweaking to a rule already in place, with clubs now required to give at least 1,500 minutes of combined playing time to Canadian players under the age of 21.
That number was set at 1,000 minutes in 2019, the CPL’s inaugural campaign and prorated to 250 minutes at last summer’s condensed Island Games tournament in PEI.
“It’s a natural progression for the league,” Gale said Friday in a chat with valourfootball.club. “I’ve been a proponent of it since Day 1. As the national team coach for the Under-20s I could not find players who had played regularly or had had minutes.
“It’s important for our identity as a league and a big part of our identity as a club. I will always be in favour of promoting young Canadian talent.”
Each CPL club must have at least three U-21 Canadian players signed on their rosters. Interestingly, right now Valour FC has none – although that could soon change. Gale said the club his close to announcing a deal with a young Canadian international who he said could meet that minutes threshold all on his own.
There are also continuing discussions on loan agreements with MLS clubs, including with Toronto FC about a return of defender Julian Dunn, who played so well for Valour FC in PEI and doesn’t turn 21 until July.
“We’ve got some irons in the fire,” added Gale, “but we could end up with possibly five (U-21 players) of which three would be on loan.”
The development of young players doesn’t just help grow the game in this country and possibly help feed the Canadian Men’s National Team, it also makes good business sense. The younger players who might sign transfer agreements do represent a financial return for CPL teams.
“That’s something that the ownerships and managements have discussed extensively behind the scenes and looked at other models,” said Gale. “That’s very much a blueprint for us going forward and how to become a league that can develop and nurture young talent and showcase them to the rest of the world.
“I believe it was (Tottenham manager) José Mourhino who was just recently quoted as saying people are looking at North America now because of the development of younger players and with Alphonso Davies on the world stage people are looking at Canada.
“The league realizes that if we are to continue to progress we need to give these young Canadians opportunities to get these minutes. And then if that could lead them on to a higher level that benefits the club and their development model and the expansion of the league as a whole.”
DRAFT WATCH: The CPL’s 2021 U Sports Draft goes at 2 p.m. Friday, June 29th and can be sign live on canpl.ca and OneSoccer.
The draft will feature two rounds, with all 16 selections (two for each of the eight CPL teams) being invited to training camp.
Valour FC will pick third and 14th overall.
Meanwhile, the MLS Super Draft was held this week and the lone Manitoban eligible – Kyle Hiebert of La Salle, who attends Missouri State – was not selected.
“Great lad. I spoke to Kyle a week before,” said Gale. “It’s interesting, because we had Julian Avila-Good (of Winnipeg) drafted in the third round last year (by Seattle) and didn’t get past training camp. It’s a tough market down there.
“Kyle still has a year of school left. He knows that he can come and train and us in the summer like he did last year and the year before. The door’s always open to him here and if he doesn’t achieve his objective of making the MLS then as a young, homegrown Manitoba player we’d be very interested in bringing him in once he’s graduated.”