OSA Announces New Developmental Structure

The Ontario Player Development League, while flawed, will become an important part in producing future Canadian professionals
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, October 03, 2013

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

The Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) announced on September 25 the 18 clubs that will take part in the new the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL).

Along with the Toronto FC Academy team, the Ottawa Fury represents the professional clubs in the new standards-based league intended to value Long Term Player Development (LTPD).

While a creating a standards-based league, where participants enter based on merit rather than politics, the OSA has drawn criticism that for-profit academies have not been allowed into the league. This is regrettable as these also play an important part in player development and excluding them from the OPDL risks discouraging the for-profit academies from buying into the principles of LTPD.

Under the new setup, the clubs around Ontario selected to play in the new league will doubtlessly develop players who will eventually become professional soccer players.  Though the Toronto FC Academy is also likely produce professional soccer players, the setup at the Ottawa Fury should be particularly attractive to many young players.

With a continued commitment to youth development along with the new NASL team, the Ottawa Fury has made a bridge between talent and pro that is arguably easier to cross than those between Canadian MLS clubs and their academy teams.

Without the roster and salary rules of MLS, the Fury can sign up their promising youngsters to professional contracts without the need for a Tim Bezbatchenko-type GM like TFC has.

For the players, the Ottawa Fury Academy should be attractive, not only because the new league set-up emphasises development, but also because the jump from academy to professional is likely to be easier on a Division 2 squad than in Major League Soccer.

Not every player will be ready to jump straight into MLS-level soccer and will thus benefit from having the opportunity to enter the professional ranks at a slightly lower, without the need to relocate to another city, province or even country. 

Overall the news of the OPDL is positive and the other provinces should generally mirror the initiative. They should however not duplicate the exclusion of for-profit academies, a mistake that the OSA and OPDL will hopefully rectify sooner rather than later.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.