The Canadian Premier League announced on Friday that it will stage the 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft on January 29 and that it will be live-streamed on Twitter at @CPLsoccer, starting at 3 p.m. ET.
It will also be live streamed on OneSoccer at onesoccer.ca and on OneSoccer’s YouTube channel.
The 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft will be hosted by OneSoccer commentator Adam Jenkins, who will be joined by U SPORTS correspondent Alan Hudes.
This year’s draft will consist of two rounds, with eight picks per round and each CPL club making two selections.
U SPORTS men’s soccer student-athletes who have registered and declared themselves available to be selected are eligible for this draft. The final 48 eligible players were selected through CPL clubs’ scouting departments with assistance from the league’s Football Development Department.
The order of the draft is based on the clubs’ 2020 regular-season record and will follow a “snake draft” format:
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.
Drafted players who sign U SPORTS contracts but decide to return to university before the August 15 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. A drafted player who does not sign will then be able to re-enter the draft for the following year should he have remaining years of eligibility and be in good academic standing with his university.
HFX Wanderers FC fullback Jake Ruby, who is in his second year at Trinity Western University, and Forge FC’s attacker and UQTR standout Gabriel Balbinotti had their rights retained this off-season.
Alternatively, players can choose to stay with their CPL outfits on a fully-fledged professional contract – former Pacific FC winger Zach Verhoven (University of British Columbia) went that route.
RELATED READING: More on the 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft
Teams have found great, young talent at previous 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 in 2020. 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 last summer after helping UQTR Patriotes win a U SPORTS Men’s Championship in 2019.
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 drafts who have made an impact in the CPL include ex-Valour FC midfielder Dylan Carreiro (2018, second overall), and current FC Edmonton goalkeeper Connor James (2018, seventh overall).
Former Cavalry FC defender Joel Waterman (now with Club de Foot Montréal 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.
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.