5 familiar faces in the 2023 CPL-U SPORTS Draft pool

The fifth edition of the CPL-U SPORTS Draft will be conducted this week, as clubs convene once again to select from the cream of the crop in the Canadian university system.

As is often the case, this year’s pool of eligible players includes a handful of familiar faces, several of whom have been selected before and a few who have even featured in the CPL over the past few years. As part of the CPL-U SPORTS Draft’s unique system, players are able to return to school in August after playing professionally in the CPL and retain their U SPORTS eligibility.

Some who opt for that path, as well as players who get drafted but don’t sign a contract, then re-enter the draft pool the following year in hopes of finding their opportunity in the pro game.

So, don’t be surprised if you’ve already heard a few of the names called out at this week’s draft. Here are five potential draftees who may be familiar.

Kairo Coore

University: Cape Breton
Position: Attacker
Year: 2nd

The native of Ajax, Ontario played in the CPL in 2022 for FC Edmonton, scoring two goals in 10 appearances. The Eddies selected him second overall in the 2021 draft, and Coore went on to feature regularly for the club at the pro level before returning to Cape Breton for his second year of U SPORTS soccer.

Coore was a key attacker for the Capers this past season, scoring 15 times in 12 games en route to winning the Atlantic University Sport championship (Cape Breton’s sixth in a row). The talented forward will be hoping to make an impact again at the CPL level this year, having entered the draft for a second time.

Colin Gander

University: Guelph
Position: Left-back
Year: 4th

Another player who featured regularly in the 2022 CPL season, Gander made 15 appearances for the Halifax Wanderers this past year. He did well in his minutes, playing as either a fullback or a wingback on the left of the Wanderers’ defence.

Gander returned to Guelph in August this past year, where he would play 12 matches, scoring four goals and providing two assists. He’s also previously played at the League1 Ontario level for Guelph United, and has shown in his time in Halifax that he’s a capable defender at the professional level.

Raphaël Garcia

University: Carleton
Position: Right-back
Year: 2nd

Garcia is a bit of a CPL throwback here, having played for Valour FC in 2019 and 2020. The 23-year-old right-back has 17 appearances for the Winnipeg club to his name, but in the past two years he has been impressing at the U SPORTS level for the Carleton Ravens.

He helped Carleton to a national silver medal in 2021, following it up with a strong 2022, though the Ravens lost to Toronto Metropolitan in a close OUA quarter-final. Garcia played eight games for Carleton this past year, playing an important role at right fullback. With significant professional experience already under his belt, Garcia could be a strong option for a CPL side this year.

Valour's Raphael Garcia. (CPL).
Valour’s Raphael Garcia. (CPL).

Skyler Rogers

University: Mount Royal
Position: Winger
Year: 1st

The 18-year-old winger is making his first appearance in the CPL-U SPORTS Draft pool, but this won’t be his first brush with the pro level. Rogers, a Calgary native and a product of the Foothills academy, signed a development contract with Cavalry FC this past year and went on to play three professional games for the club.

Rogers spent his first year of university at Mount Royal in his hometown, and as a rookie he made 15 appearances as the Cougars went on to win a bronze medal in the Canada West conference. The youngster is strong on the dribble and can help create from wide areas at the pro level. He’ll also qualify as a U-21 player this coming season for any CPL side who chooses to draft him.

Christopher Campoli

University: Ontario Tech
Position: Midfield
Year: 4th

Campoli will appear in the CPL-U SPORTS Draft for a third time this year, having previously been picked by York United and Halifax in the past two drafts, though he has yet to break into the pro game. The attack-minded midfielder offers a creative presence and is capable of both scoring goals and assisting, and he could provide some spark to a CPL side through the middle.

The Woodbridge native had another impressive season at Ontario Tech, scoring 13 goals in 11 games to lead the entire OUA. His six assists also put him in a tie for most in the conference, proving his multi-faceted skillset. Campoli will be hoping the third time’s the charm for him as he attempts to find his opportunity in the CPL.