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Opinion: Canadian Premier League clubs should build academies

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Should Canadian Premier League teams use youth academies to develop players?

If last season’s results are anything to go by, the answer is yes.

Cavalry FC and Forge FC found success during the CPL’s inaugural season with many players coaches were already very familiar with, having worked with them in pre-existing player development systems.

Cavalry FC and Forge FC used connections with existing academies in 2019

2019 CPL champions Forge brought players like Tristan Borges, Chris Nanco, and Kyle Bekker from Mississauga’s Sigma FC. Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis co-founded the League1 Ontario club and managed the club for 13 years.

Should CPL clubs build youth academies?

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2019 CPL table toppers Cavalry FC brought many players up from USL League Two’s Calgary Foothills FC for its inaugural season. Players like Elijah Adekugbe, Marco Carducci, Nico Pasquotti and Dominick Zator were instrumental in winning the 2018 USL League Two (at the time called PDL) championship under current Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. And that core of Foothills FC players proved crucial to the Cavs’ 2019 season.

Both Sigma FC and Foothills FC operate youth academies. And the CPL’s top two clubs were able to tap into these academy systems in year one. Much of the successes they saw last season stem from the familiarity, consistency, and quality those associated development programs produced.

Cavalry FC, Adekugbe, Canadian Premier League

Cavalry FC’s  Elijah Adekugbe, left, and Nico Pasquotti celebrate a PDL semifinal victory while at Calgary Foothills FC in 2018. Photo: ©Stuart Gradon/Total Soccer News

Even FC Edmonton has made strides to improve through its academy as some of the starters and likely future starters have come through the academy. Marcus Velado-Tsegaye, Allan Zebie, and Hanson Boakai come to mind.

Canadian Premier League academies would come with cost

Academies and scouting are crucial to the success of any team whether that team is in a lower division of their soccer pyramid or the top division.

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In North American sports, there is often a move towards affiliation rather than academies to produce talent. This makes sense given academy systems can be expensive to run and cumbersome due to the large number of staff that would be necessary to administer the soccer program for various age groups and the associated cost of finding ways to work around the everyday lives of those youth players.

But a major advantage to having an academy, over simply having an associated team, is clubs having the ability to train players from a young age and for those players to have exposure to the first team as they develop.

Youth academies build identity and culture

By allowing young players to be around the first team it gives them a chance to understand the work ethic necessary to be a professional and a culture can be born around a common identity and style of play as well and having an academy would also be beneficial from a marketing standpoint.

Academies also help the club grow roots in the community and get the name of the club out into the local soccer scene. They can give an opportunity to a local kid and prepares them for the professional game.

Overall, academies are the way to go because the costs can be mitigated or downsized based on the club size. You may not need an expensive academy like you see at Liverpool’s Kirby facilities or run an expansive academy system like many of the major European power houses have akin to Real Madrid, Juventus or Barcelona – just one that is adequate to promote a team culture and facilitate a player’s development into a professional team.

A small operation or academy is all that is needed to give the next generation of soccer players a place to hone their craft by a club and hopefully given the opportunity to shine for their respective teams.

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About Author

Greg Servold

Greg Servold is a life-long soccer fan who has passionately followed FC Edmonton since 2019. A neutral fan of the game turned supporter. He covers FC Edmonton.

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