Canadian Premier League Announces Amended Plans For 2020 CPL-U SPORTS Draft
Courtesy from the files of usprts.ca and canpl.ca December 8, 2020.
After an unprecedented year in the sports world, the Canadian Premier League is pleased to announce that select, top-rated, Canadian university men’s soccer players from coast-to-coast will have an opportunity to earn a spot on a CPL Club through the CPL-U SPORTS Draft.
This year’s edition will be conducted via an amended format due to the cancellation of the 2020 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship and Canadian university season across each of its four member conferences.
Each year at the conclusion of the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship, the Canadian Premier League holds a draft for eligible U SPORTS men’s soccer student-athletes who have registered and declared themselves ‘available’ to be selected. This draft is open to any eligible U SPORTS underclassmen that registers.
In the absence of a varsity campaign this fall, the CPL’s Football Development Scouting Division put together an amended plan to accommodate required changes, including delaying the draft until mid/late January 2021 to provide additional time for a robust video recruitment process. The CPL-U SPORTS Draft will consist of two rounds, with eight picks in each round due to the addition of Atlético Ottawa. All 16 draftees will be invited to their club’s preseason training, with the hopes of securing a 2021 U SPORTS Developmental Contract for the upcoming season
This truly unique partnership between the Canadian Premier League and U SPORTS allows a student-athlete with one to five years of U SPORTS eligibility remaining to sign with a CPL Club, while preserving their eligibility before returning to U SPORTS competition. Several players have also later joined their CPL club on a full-time professional player contract following graduation.
U SPORTS men’s soccer is the highest level of play at the university level in Canada, with 48 Canadian university teams participating.
In the Canadian Premier League’s 2020 season (the Island Games), CPL- U SPORTS drafted players achieved the following:
- All four players from the 2019 CPL-U SPORTS Draft who signed with their clubs (Corey Bent (pictured above) at HFX Wanderers, Gabriel Balbinotti at Forge FC, Isaiah Johnston (pictured below) at York9 FC and Jake Ruby at HFX Wanderers) made at least three appearances at the Island Games, and three started at least one match.
- Twelve former CPL-U SPORTS Draft picks made at least one CPL appearance in 2020.
- 2019 1st overall pick Cory Bent (Cape Breton Capers) joined former university teammates Peter Schaale (2018, 5th overall), Jake Ruby (2019, 14th overall), reigning U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Year Aboubacar Sissoko (Montreal Carabins) and two other U SPORTS players to help propel HFX Wanderers FC to a second-place finish at the Island Games. Bent played in all but one of HFX’s eleven matches at the Island Games, scoring once.
- 2019 U SPORTS champion and draftee Gabriel Balbinotti (UQTR Patriotes pictured below) became a key part of the attacking rotation for 2020 Canadian Premier League Champions Forge FC
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.
“We are excited to continue providing this important developmental opportunity for our men’s soccer student-athletes through the CPL-U SPORTS Draft. 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, U SPORTS
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.”