Canadian Youth Development Raised by Caps

With Saskatoon Academy, the Vancouver Whitecaps are expanding both their brand and opportunities for young Canadian soccer players.
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, March 07, 2013

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It might be more than 1,500 kilometers away from Vancouver and the Whitecaps’ home at B.C. Place, but the Caps are spreading their influence.

Building upon a partnership with Huskie United Soccer Academy for the previous 4 years, the Whitecaps have increased their presence in Saskatchewan by fully running an academy there under their brand.

Not only is this a great marketing opportunity for the Whitecaps as they can establish their name in a new a province, but they can have it associated with something as positive as the development of young talents, especially as the U-6 to U-14 teams are open to all genders, which will expose the club and the game to all young Saskatchewanians.

It’s also great for Canadian soccer and the growth of the game in the country. Having a Whitecaps academy in the province will help promising players get discovered, which can bring them into the youth national team programs.

This will only further help their development and, as more and more Saskatchewanians reach the men’s and women’s national teams, this will show the kids of Saskatchewan that the opportunity and possibility for them to represent and play soccer for their country is there.

As Steve Sandor of the11.ca noted, the Whitecaps seem to have respected that Alberta belongs to FC Edmonton, having placed the academy in Saskatchewan rather than British Columbia’s neighbouring Alberta.

Canada is a huge country and in spite of the prairie provinces being less densely populated than BC or Ontario, it is good to see that the Whitecaps aren’t picking a fight with FC Edmonton over young players and are focused on unchartered territory.

Hopefully this will inspire Canada’s other MLS teams to do something similar. The Greater Toronto area might have more than 20% of Canada’s population, but if they build and co-operate with academies in western Ontario and Manitoba, for example, this could help build a club’s brand and boost demand for TV-viewership in the long term, in addition to the talent it helps develop.

If Montreal built partnerships in Atlantic Canada, this would mean all 10 provinces would have some sort of presence of professional soccer or the development system thereof. This increased exposure of soccer could function as a catalyst of grassroots development and could inspire communities and entrepreneurs to invest in the game.

All of this is obviously speculation and exists only in the heads of dreamers like myself, but the Whitecaps have paved the way and shown a framework for how it can be done. Hopefully Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact will learn from the Caps and will follow in their example.

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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