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No NEXT Pro? No Problem!

CF Montreal opts out of new u23 league, but is it such a bad thing?

Would Montreal’s young players such as Keesean Ferdinand (left) and Rida Zouhir (right) gain better experience playing NEXT Pro u23 football, or PLSQ?

When MLS revealed the list of 21 clubs to kick-off the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro League there was no representative from Quebec. Many CF Montreal fans expressed concern. Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps are included after all...

CF Montreal has been quite adept at injecting disgruntlement and disharmony amongst sections of its fanbase throughout 2021, but maybe, just maybe, could the decision not to join be the right one?

It really depends on how you think young players should be developed.

NEXT Pro we are led to believe will be an u23 competition, almost mimicking the model used in England where they have Professional Development Leagues for u23 and u18 levels. This is the environment Luis Binks came from and was keen to leave in his wake.

It’s also a level of the game that many coaches, and players for that matter, in England consider artificial, or fake football.

Pep Guardiola no less, described the academy system in England as a “real problem” and went so far as to suggest Premier League ‘B’ or Reserve teams should compete in the Football League, at levels three and four.

“They compete in these second teams, but it is not a good league, the consistency is not physically strong,” Guardiola said. “Here, they play with no spectators. It’s not strong enough and that’s why it’s so difficult for the English players [to develop] sometimes at big clubs like City.”

MLS no doubt has done its homework and found good reason to imitate the English model, yet it’s a concept which pits young, inexperienced players against youngsters of the same age. As I understand it, there isn’t any opportunity for coming up against hardened pros or more experienced players.

Critics of the age-restricted second teams in England feel strongly that it’s much better for young players to go on loan and play first-team football; playing for three points where team-mates are dependent on win-bonuses. Or perhaps playing in the old reserve leagues in teams which would have several experienced pro’s involved.

You don’t have to look too far for an opinion from a Montreal connection. Here’s what Luis Binks had to say when I spoke with him shortly after his arrival in Quebec...

“Yeah, I agree with anyone that says u23 football is bad. I hated the league. They do it differently in other countries like Spain, where a La Liga club’s B team will play in tier 2 or 3 against the first-teams of other professional clubs. You get exposed to men’s football, to getting beaten up a little bit, which I think any young player needs. By playing 23’s football it’s fake, it’s not real.”

Neil Warnock while manager at Cardiff City had similar sentiment, highlighting Gavin Whyte, a signing he made from Irish League football. Warnock felt strongly that Whyte was physically and mentally better prepared than a player coming through u23 football, having arrived from the school of hard knocks that you get in a men’s national league championship.

Where should the likes of Montreal’s Matt Catavolo be developed? In u23 football or playing with and against men...?

So perhaps PLSQ, at least for the time being is the right place for CF Montreal u23’s. I can’t profess to know all that much about the league, but it does contain experienced players as well as youth, so the desire to play against men which Luis Binks considered so vital, could be realized.

Under the pandemic it possibly offers financial prudence too.

Personally given the choice, I’d have liked to see all three Canadian MLS clubs with reserve teams in CanPL. Clearly this was off the table since CanPL decided from the very beginning not to entertain reserve teams in its set-up.

But surely it would have been a boost for all concerned, not least the league itself, which could’ve begun its inaugural season with ten clubs instead of a paltry seven. It could even have been a short-term measure, with agreement that MLS clubs would move to another competition once CanPL had reached an acceptable number of independent clubs.

This would possibly have helped establish the league more quickly in its formative years, while extending it to another province (Quebec). The three MLS clubs would have benefitted and overall an even better Canadian club football landscape would possibly now exist.


What’s your thoughts on CF Montreal u23’s? Please take our poll.

Poll

Where do you think CF Montreal reserve team should play competitively?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    MLS NEXT Pro
    (17 votes)
  • 12%
    PLSQ
    (10 votes)
  • 58%
    CanPL, should CanPL permit reserve teams from Canadian MLS clubs.
    (46 votes)
  • 7%
    United Soccer League
    (6 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now