Canada Can Benefit From TFC's USL PRO Affiliation

Players with futures on the Canadian national team are likely to be seeing playing time for Toronto FC’s affiliate in 2014
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, January 23, 2014

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Toronto FC announced on Wednesday that the club had entered into a 1-year partnership with the Wilmington Hammerheads, which something that had been reported by Canadian Soccer News for quite a while.

That it has finally become official is great news. Not just for Toronto FC, which will see its youngsters gain valuable playing time, but fans of the Canadian Men’s National Team program should also be happy that Toronto FC has finally added this piece to their player development system.

Currently, the gap between the academy and the first team is too big and that left many academy graduates with the choice of either going to college, a less than optimal choice from a soccer perspective – or languishing on the bench.

Players such as Manny Aparicia, Emery Welshman, Quillan Roberts and Kyle Bekker were not ready for the first team last year, but rather than not even making the bench, they should have been getting regular playing time elsewhere. Kyle Bekker’s inability to make the Toronto FC first team has put him in the awkward situation where he has played more national team soccer than professional soccer.

With the Wilmington partnership, such players, as well as the newest signing in Jordan Hamilton, will have a place to develop in a professional environment, while also getting playing time.

This development will help Canada, as some of its talented youngsters, ones who are likely to be an integral part of the squads attempting to make it to the 2016 Olympics and the 2018 World Cup, will not experience a halt in their development, but rather continue it.

The partnership is currently only for 1 year, signalling that Toronto FC has other plans long-term. Personally I hope this means creating a full Toronto FC-2 team, playing at the training centre in Downsview equally with the other USL PRO teams. This will mirror the approach in Spain and Germany, giving the club total control over its player development as well as giving their young player the opportunity to play and develop with the Toronto FC system.

For now, however, a USL PRO affiliate is the right choice, and hopefully both the Whitecaps and the Impact will follow along with either an affiliate or their own team in the USL PRO. 

Henrik LONNE

Nationality:
Denmark
College:
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.
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