UBC’s Mike Mosher confident CPL-U SPORTS Draft will aid in player recruitment, academic achievement

TORONTO – UBC Thunderbirds head coach Mike Mosher knows opportunities at the big leagues are a “rarity” in Canada.

For 23 seasons, the former Canadian Under-23 international has guided the men’s side of the University of British Columbia, helping develop young talent in the hopes of sending them down a path toward professional soccer.

However, that path hasn’t been easy to traverse: Very few make it to the perceived finish line; even fewer enjoy a full career.

But this year, a clear road to professional soccer has emerged in Canada, as the Canadian Premier League partners with U SPORTS to conduct the CPL-U SPORTS Draft. For Mosher, the opportunity it provides to his players – and to his program – cannot be overstated.

The rising tide lifts all ships, after all.

“It’s a great partnership where parties for both sides have come together and worked to make this happen, for the betterment of young Canadian soccer players,” Mosher told

“One of our biggest challenges has just been the rarity of opportunities within our country. There’s only been a few professional teams in the MLS and USL level in the past. The CPL, with seven teams, presents more opportunity, period, for the Canadian university player. That’s been the biggest benefit.”

With more than two decades’ worth of experience during his tenure at the UBC Thunderbirds, Mosher – the son of fabled UBC men’s and women’s soccer coach Dick Mosher – boasts four National Championship titles (2005, 2007, 2012 and 2013) since taking over in 1996. As such, the former Canadian Under-23 international has seen many a student-athlete pursue a professional career in soccer.

But beyond providing players with a chance at pursuing a soccer career, the CPL-U SPORTS Draft – which allows non-graduating student-athletes to maintain their eligibility while playing with a pro club – also raises the profile of the university game in Canada, which, Mosher explains, will help across multiple channels, including school recruitment and academic goals.

“I would like to think that some of the student-athletes that maybe look to go south (to the U.S.) now see this as a potential opportunity to play at a good level of university soccer, receive scholarship funding to help support their education, but also support their dreams of being a higher-level professional soccer player, all at the same time,” Mosher said.

He added: “The biggest part of our job is to keep the student-athlete focused on the ‘student’ part and continue to move forward. It’s not easy to become a professional soccer player and make a living that way so you always need to have a safety net down the road. We want to encourage our players to be the best they can but we need to keep them grounded and focused on their education.

“Maybe for some of the top players, they do push on and become a professional after only two years, but even if they’ve only done two years of education, if the pro opportunity stops, it’s much easier for them to come back and finish their education, too.”

As his team prepares to contest a Conference Championship before hosting the U SPORTS National Championship on Nov. 8-11, Mosher has already seen his own players grow hungrier as the CPL-U SPORTS Draft looms ahead.

“There’s excitement for these young players to have an opportunity to challenge themselves and play at another level,” Mosher said.

Between school, soccer and an upcoming draft, Mosher has plenty to manage with his team in the coming weeks, as the U SPORTS National Championship comes to his home turf. Should Mosher’s team earn a berth, the CPL’s coaches will be observing his players first-hand, and could potentially draft a few to the inaugural CPL rosters.

Mosher is confident his players would thrive in a professional environment, too.

“The group that I’ve got this year is as talented a group as I’ve had in all my years, 20-plus years of doing this,” Mosher said. “The individual talent is as good as any team I’ve had but hand-in-hand with that is that we’ve got good character – well-rounded, grounded young men. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend most of them to the CPL’s coaches.”

The CPL-U SPORTS Draft will be conducted on Nov. 12 following the U SPORTS National Championship (Nov. 8-11) at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver.