A big question that comes up far more often than it should, concerns where the Canadian Premier League will find its players. There’s already a fair bit of information out there, from Jon Eden’s Canucks Abroad, to the various rosters floating around other Canadian Leagues, and even to long guessing lists on The Voyageur’s Forum. We know from Steve Milton’s article in The Hamilton Spectator that there will be 5 basic groups of players: Foundational, Up-and-Coming, Home Territory, U-Sports/CCAA, and Open Market.

I’m not going to talk foundational players. These folks are already into their careers and the CPL is looking to poach them to help form a strong back-bone. It’ll be a heck of a challenge, but there’s plenty of names that most people following the development of the league will have on their wish lists. The initial list is easy to build, but luring them to the new league is going to be the challenge. There’s plenty of digital ink spent on this group on many sites, and I’m sure we’ll touch on it again when we hit the next international trade window.

Click image above if you got game.

Only a couple days ago, the search for Home Territory players was officially announced. These players will be the diamonds in the rough, who have played (and likely still play) in amateur local leagues because they never really had another option. It also provides a chance for some not-so-local, Open Market, players from lower leagues to show their stuff. For a $200 fee, players can attend one of seven 2-day trials, where they will be fully evaluated. This will be a great opportunity for a lot of players, and should provide the coaches with a good baseline for what they can expect to field in 2019. No word yet on whether these training camps will be broadcast online, or if we’ll get to see much in the way of highlights, but there will likely be some footage.

What we do know is that the CPL has partnered with Kinduct, a Canadian sports analytics company, who “will be collecting, transposing and presenting useful data tools to players, coaches and CPL staff during the open trials.” Ryan Smyth, a senior sports technologist with Kinduct, notes every participating player will receive a “performance evaluation summary” which “looks similar to EA Sports’ ratings.” This is an interesting development, as it hints that the CPL is looking to use analytics in the construction of their teams, and suggests they may have a certain video game franchise in mind.

Between these training camps and the Kinduct analysis, there are a couple things that I would expect to see once teams start signing players. Given the CPL’s video-addiction, we will probably see short video segments, with training highlights and possibly even performance ratings, during player signing announcements. After the 1st signing per team, we’ll probably see a few players announced at a time. So instead of a bunch of short videos per player, we may see one that looks at three or four players, possibly with a performance comparison table for the group, potentially with certain video games or fantasy league developments in mind. It will be interesting to see how exactly they use the data, and whether it becomes a part of the announcements. With the first camp starting September 20th, there’s plenty to watch.

Most up-and-coming players will be pulled from League1 Ontario (L1O), Premier Ligue de Soccer du Quebec (PLSQ), United Soccer Leagues (USL), and the Premier Development League (PDL). There may even be a few pulled from the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). There are 238 teams between these 5 leagues. Add NCAA, USports, and CCAA teams to that list, and that’s a lot of ground to cover. There’s no way any coach can do a halfway decent job of it on their own, even with a handful of scouts on staff.

Enter scouting services, like The Soccer Syndicate which officially launched Tuesday at 10:00am. The Soccer Syndicate is co-created and managed by former USL technical Director & USL scout, Scott Rezendes, and former MLS club Director of Domestic Scouting, Matt Martin. In addition to scouting “at every level of US Soccer,” the Soccer Syndicate plans to also scout players in the CPL, L1O, PLSQ, and a Southern Ontario-based “league” that is regularly caught rigging games for Russian gambling sites. Much like the NFL of the 1960s, the CPL is going to need to make its funding stretch, so using a scouting service will cut down on costs and time spent searching for up-and-comers. This will be especially beneficial for teams like HFX Wanderers, who don’t have L1O, PLSQ, or even a PDL club in their immediate vicinity.

We inquired with the Soccer Syndicate in regards to scouting USports or CCAA, as they do scout the NCAA and some US-based youth academy tournaments. According to Scott, “as we bite off this massive effort to scout at all levels here in North America, we have to pick and choose, at least early on, where we dive in, and honestly it’s based upon the relationships we’ve built thus far.” The Soccer Syndicate doesn’t have the resources to regularly scout USports or CCAA at the moment, but will “do a one-off here and there with a Simon Fraser match or what-have-you”. Although they are well staffed across the United States, they still need to continue to build relationships and grow the number of scouts available in Canada. With CPL and USL D3, plus potentially NISA and NPSL Pro launching next year, “teams are finding it more and more difficult to find players they feel comfortable with to build and so they take a lot of chances […] we’re hoping we can help and be a solution to those clubs.”

As it appears at the moment, they don’t spend much time scouting USports or CCAA, but that may change as they develop relationships with Canadian teams and leagues, especially with clubs who may be a little more isolated in the soccer landscape (such as HFX Wanderers, Valour FC, FC Edmonton, and Cavalry FC). Although rumours have talked about a potential for a USports draft (no rumours for CCAA), nothing is concrete in these areas and CPL teams are going to need a hand evaluating these young prospects. Finding any coverage of USports and NCAA is tricky. There is an occasional journalist, like our own Ben Steiner, who spends some time covering college/university soccer, but there are definite gaps.

With a focus on Canadian and American leagues, The Soccer Syndicate could do a lot of the advanced work finding and scouting potential signings for the Canadian Premier League, if the teams are interested in using their service. Other companies will fill in the gaps for internationals that may show potential, which will, in my opinion, likely include a number of Caribbean and Central American prospects.

There’s a lot of soccer out there, and the Canadian Premier League teams are going to have their hands full determining how to round out their teams. Let the signings begin!

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