Hockey Soccer Night in Canada Hockey is no longer our nation's favourite pastime. Are you surprised Well, you shouldn't be, because over the last ten years, the number of people registered in soccer has tripled that of hockey. What should surprise you however, is that even with the number of Canadians becoming involved with organized soccer drastically increasing every year, Canada has yet to successfully sustain a professional league for more than a few seasons. The answer to this problem is not to flood our professional teams with foreign players, but to build from the ground up creating Canadian talent and increasing the number of local players in our professional leagues. By building more local players into our pro teams we will in turn create greater community support, lower the player salary budget, and most importantly it will attract young skilled athletes to the sport. Many professional soccer teams have folded because the support of the community was not there; however, teams that flourished were those that created loyal fans by building their team with local players.

Sadly, with the Edmonton Drillers of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) having to drop out of the league last season due to money problems, Canada has lost yet another highly competitive soccer team. The reason for their premature departure was clear and simple; there were not enough fans in the seats. Many feel the reason for this was that Edmonton soccer community felt no connection to the team because none of the local players that were picked for the team ever got to see any playing time. When the team chose to play these few local players the total game attendance rose from an average of 4, 500 to close to 10, 000.

The coaching staff argued that playing the local players more would cause the team to do poorly however, not only did the Drillers win more games on average when these players played, but the attendance was greater creating more profits for the owners. In addition, local players were once the little kids in the stands dreaming of the day they too will get to step on the field, which means they will often sign for less money, lowering the salary budget. In the 1998/1999 season, the Edmonton Drillers player salary was just above $150, 000. The average player salary was $6, 800 a month; however, of the seven local players that were on the team not one of them signed a contract for over $3, 000.

If you were to compare this to the St. Louis Ambush of the NPSL you would find that the Ambush players make an average of $4, 200 (CND), a difference of $2, 600 Canadian. Why, you might ask are the salaries so different Well, out of twenty-two contracted St. Louis players all but four of them were born and raised in St.

Louis. Not only do foreign players cost more to sign they also need to be relocated to the city and the team is often the one who pays for the apartment rental and vehicle payments for these players. In the end the owners end up paying double or triple the salary of a local player all for a foreign soccer player that might score one or two points more a game. Finally, the biggest problem facing Canadian Professional teams is finding skilled, young players, however when children look down from the stands to see local players on the field they realize that they too may someday play professionally. Many young athletes see soccer as a dead-end sport or as a something to do in the off-season of another sport. But, as the number of local players increase in the Canadian Soccer leagues these same athletes are starting to see soccer as a viable sport to play professionally.

Furthermore, local players are often awe-struck by the instant celebrity status that they have quickly obtained and they love it. They are the first to signup for community appearances and jump at the chance to encourage and motive little soccer players to have fun with the sport and to keep on playing. Local professional soccer players often have a touch and feel aura about them that other professional athletes seem to lack, this causes them to become instant heroes or role models for little kids who end up dreaming of growing to be just like them. If Canadian professional teams invest enough time and energy in local players they will build the support of the community, they will lower the players budget and they will attract young skilled athletes to the sport of soccer. Canada will never win the World Cup, but maybe some day they will make to finals. 336.