The Canadian Premier League announced on Tuesday that the 2021 season will feature even more contributions from young Canadians, with clubs now required to give at least 1,500 minutes of combined playing time to domestic players under the age of 21.
This new minutes threshold is an increase from the past two seasons, when CPL clubs had to provide 1,000 minutes of playing time for U-21 players (pro-rated to 250 minutes at The Island Games due to the shortened season).
For the upcoming year, players will be eligible if born January 1, 2000 or later, and qualify as a domestic player under the CPL’s roster rules. Like in previous years, CPL clubs must have at least three U-21 Canadian players signed on their rosters.
“We put this innovative rule in place that was designed to develop young Canadian players, a foundational pillar of the Canadian Premier League,” said James Easton, VP Football Operations, Canadian Premier League. “Part of the mission of the Canadian Premier League is to foster the growth of young Canadian soccer players. The success to date of our under 21 player minutes is a testament to the quality that exists across Canada, which is now being served in a meaningful way by the opportunities provided by the CPL and is why we have decided to increase the minutes for young Canadian players.”
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In both of the last two seasons, all CPL clubs have successfully met their U-21 minutes requirement, with Valour FC leading the way in 2020 with 1,532 minutes. In the CPL’s inaugural season in 2019, it was Pacific FC who smashed the threshold, crossing the 1,000-minute mark in May en route to recording 13,532 total U-21 minutes. All in all, the CPL has given more than 43,000 minutes of professional playing time to young Canadians across the past two years.
CPL teams have seen major contributions from their U-21 players, as well.
Former Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner Tristan Borges led Forge FC to a league championship in 2019 at age 21, and Mo Farsi — this past season’s U-21 Player of the Year — was a revelation for Cavalry FC at The Island Games. In 2019, Pacific FC’s cast of youngsters (six of whom met the 1,000-minute mark on their own) made up a significant portion of the team’s regular starting lineup, with most of that core, including Terran Campbell, Kadin Chung, and Matthew Baldisimo, continuing to develop at the club beyond their 21st birthdays.
This past season also saw York United’s Lowell Wright become the youngest goalscorer in CPL history, finding the net against Atlético Ottawa just a few days before he turned 17 years old.
Three U-21 players have gone on to be sold by their CPL clubs after impressing in their first season, with Borges, Emilio Estevez, and Tyler Attardo all securing moves abroad.
It will be more challenging for teams to meet the new 1,500-minute threshold, but some clubs already have a few of their youngsters locked up for next season. FC Edmonton, for example, has returning players such as Antony Caceres, Chance Carter, and Marcus Velado-Tsegaye. York United has several U-21 Canadians signed right now, including 2020 contributors Max Ferrari, Ijah Halley, and Lowell Wright.
With a higher minutes threshold for domestic U-21s, CPL clubs will call on their young players more than ever in 2021, as the CPL continues to give professional opportunities to talented youngsters in order to promote their development and improve the quality of play across the league.