Canada’s record at the World Cup has been less than stellar. In the Cup’s 80-year history, Canada has qualified only once, in 1986, and was eliminated after losing three group matches.
There are 300,000 kids enrolled in soccer in Ontario alone. But for rising stars who want to take their game to the next level, the options are slim.
"Outside of the collegiate game, there isn’t much else available to them," said Lawrence Janit of the North Mississauga Soccer Club. "That’s why we see a lot of kids applying to U.S. colleges and looking for the showcase tournaments that will get them seen by scouts in Europe."
Janit says Canada needs a national soccer program to develop young talent for the world stage.
To that end, Soccer Canada helped launch the Ontario Player Development League.
The OPDL has been in the works for three years and looks to develop elite soccer players aged 13 to 18, and prepare them for Canada's national teams.
But developing talent can’t be rushed, says Alex Chiet of the Ontario Soccer Association.
"This isn't a quick-fix talent development. It takes, sort of, five-to-10 years to see the fruits of these changes," Chiet said.