FC Edmonton signs CPL-U SPORTS first overall pick Thomas Gardner

FC Edmonton announced on Tuesday that it has signed 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft first overall pick Thomas Gardner for the upcoming Canadian Premier League season.

Gardner has signed a U SPORTS Development Contract (rather than a standard player contract), which allows players to retain their eligibility and return to school in the fall.

Drafted players who sign U SPORTS Development Contracts but decide to pursue university and their eligibility before the cutoff date can be “retained” year-over-year, meaning clubs won’t have to draft the player a second time – like Cavalry FC did for Carleton University attacker Gabriel Bitar in 2018 and 2019.

Gardner, 22, is a third-year midfielder with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and a former standout with the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency and USL side Whitecaps 2, where he was coached by current FCE bench boss Alan Koch.

All CPL-U SPORTS draftees are guaranteed invitation to their respective clubs’ training camps, but the Eddies made the decision to proactively sign Gardner “based on the club’s pre-draft roster planning and his collegiate playing career.”

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Gardner scored five goals and added four assists in 16 matches for UBC in 2019.

The midfielder is the only player selected in all three CPL-U SPORTS Drafts after being picked twice by Pacific FC in 2018 and 2019 – the latter of which was derailed by a knee injury shortly after being selected.

Edmonton held the first and 16th overall picks from January’s draft. They selected former Canadian men’s national team defender and UBC fourth-year Jackson Farmer with the latter choice.

Gardner is FC Edmonton’s 20th player confirmed for the 2021 CPL season.