Major League Soccer’s Canadian content rule will undergo modifications before the start of the 2011 regular season — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be scrapped altogether.
MLS commissioner Don Garber revealed Tuesday he is involved in talks with the Canadian Soccer Association, the sport’s governing body in Canada, about making changes to the league’s Canadian quota.
Currently, Toronto FC must have at least eight Canadian players on its roster. Any changes to the rule would also affect the Vancouver Whitecaps, who will enter MLS next year, and the Montreal Impact, slated to join in 2012 as the league’s third Canadian team.
Last month, officials from both TFC and the Whitecaps made public statements about the Canadian quota being eliminated in 2011, but Garber would not confirm that on Tuesday, saying only that "we will likely change this rule for next year."
"I'm hesitant to give any detail because we are still in discussions with the CSA of what those changes will be," Garber told reporters during a conference call.
"Those changes will help keep the Canadian teams competitive and at the same time provide the CSA with whatever value they're looking for."
Opponents of the quota say the Canadian player pool isn’t deep enough to sustain it, especially with two more teams from Canada on the way. MLS is trying to balance that with the concerns of the CSA, which wants to provide as many opportunities as it can for Canadian players.
CBC Sports soccer commentator Jason de Vos, a former captain of Canada’s national team, doesn’t think the current Canadian quota helps Canadian players who would otherwise be overlooked.
"That argument may have some merit, and while there may be some exceptions, I do not believe that there is an abundance of professional-calibre players in Canada who have slipped through the cracks," de Vos wrote in a recent blog for CBCSports.ca.
"Unfortunately, we simply do not do a good enough job across the country of developing elite players under the current system. Until that system changes, we will continue to have a limited pool of players who are capable of succeeding in the professional game."
Garber made a number of other important announcements Tuesday for next season, including that MLS will be bringing back its reserve league, which was discontinued in 2008 after three years in existence.
Team roster sizes will increase to 30 players from 24. The six extra roster spots are reserved for players 24 years old and younger and will not count against a team’s salary cap, which for 2011 will be $2.67 million US – an increase from $2.55 million this season.
The MLS competition committee has also recommended that teams be allowed to sign an unlimited number of home-grown players from their youth academies. The current limit is four per year. Garber said the recommendation is expected to be approved.
Possible playoff changes
Garber said discussions will be held at league meetings about making possible changes to the playoff format, including not naming a host city for the MLS Cup and instead awarding the league’s championship game to the highest seed in the final.
This year’s MLS Cup final is scheduled for Nov. 21 at Toronto’s BMO Field.
Garber stated emphatically that MLS will not adopt a similar system used by top European leagues, where a playoff format is not used and the first-place team at the end of the season is crowned league champion.
"We will never do away with playoffs," Garber said. "There is absolutely no reason to do that. I know that it exists in other soccer leagues, though not all. All have been around for hundreds of years, all that don't have the competition that we have. We will always have playoffs."
Garber also revealed the members of the 2010 Best XI, the league’s end-of-season all-star team. The 11 players on the team include Toronto FC star and Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario.
2010 MLS Best XI:
Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts (LA Galaxy)
Defenders: Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Midfielders: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), David Ferreira (FC Dallas), Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC)
Forwards: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy)