Canadian Premier League announces plans for CPL-U SPORTS Draft in January 2021

The Canadian Premier League announced on Tuesday that it will stage the third instalment of the CPL-U SPORTS Draft in January 2021.

The CPL revealed that the draft will take place in mid/late January, with an exact date to be announced in the near future. This year’s draft has been pushed back due to the cancellation of the 2020 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship and Canadian university season across each of its four member conferences, which was forced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The CPL-U SPORTS Draft will consist of two rounds, with eight picks in each round and each CPL club making two selections. All 16 draftees will be invited to their club’s pre-season training camp ahead of the 2021 CPL campaign.

Drafted players can also sign a U SPORTS Developmental Contract, which allows a student-athlete with one to five years of U SPORTS eligibility remaining to sign with a CPL team, while preserving their eligibility before returning to U SPORTS competition. Those same underclassmen can also later sign a full-time professional player contract with their club following graduation.

U SPORTS men’s soccer student-athletes who have registered and declared themselves available to be selected are eligible for this draft, which is also open to any eligible underclassmen who register for it.

“Canadian university soccer players had the chance to display their impressive talents at the Island Games over the summer thanks to our ongoing valuable partnership. We look forward to the next draft class having their names called by CPL clubs from coast-to-coast and watching them flourish in the league in preparation for a return to varsity competition,” Lisette Johnson-Stapley, Chief Sport Officer at U SPORTS, said in a media statement.

Indeed, teams have found great, young talent at the previous two CPL-U SPORTS Drafts, as 12 former picks made at least one appearance during the 2020 season at The Island Games in PEI.

Cory Bent (2019, first overall) joined former Cape Breton University teammates Peter Schaale (2018, fifth overall), Jake Ruby (2019, 14th overall) and three other U SPORTS players to help lead HFX Wanderers FC to a second-place finish at The Island Games. Bent scored once and played in 10 of HFX’s 11 matches at the Island Games, logging 500 minutes of playing time.

Gabriel Balbinotti (2019, seventh overall)) was a key part of the attacking rotation for Forge FC in Charlottetown this summer after helping UQTR Patriotes win a U SPORTS Men’s Championship last year.

All four players from the 2020 CPL-U SPORTS Draft who signed with their clubs — Bent and Ruby at Wanderers, Balbinotti at Forge, and Isaiah Johnston at York9 FC — made at least three appearances at The Island Games, and three started at least one match.

Other notable draft picks over the past two years who have made an impact in the CPL include Valour FC’s Dylan Carreiro (2018, second overall), FC Edmonton’s Connor James (2018, seventh overall) and Pacific FC’s Zach Verhoven (2018, ninth overall).

Former Cavalry FC defender Joel Waterman (now with the Montreal Impact in MLS), FC Edmonton forward Easton Ongaro (who was originally selected by Cavalry) and HFX goalkeeper Christian Oxner also came out of the 2018 CPL-U SPORTS Draft.

Commissioner David Clanachan called the CPL-U SPORTS Draft “a key component” to the league’s success.

“Through the Island Games this year we were able to see some of the U SPORTS players shine, albeit in a modified season.  It is important to us to continue to support and provide opportunities for university players to play professionally and be part of a professional men’s soccer league,” Clanachan said.

“We know there are some talented players out there and we have adapted our draft approach this year in an effort to continue to create a pathway for our homegrown players to play in Canada.”