The U-Sports Draft by the Numbers -- first edition

And a little background on the difference between U-Sports and the NCAA

Have you grown tired of draft talk yet? No? Good, because we’re about to do another deep dive!

A reader asked last week if I could provide a similar evaluation of the CanPL U-Sports draft as I have done for MLS’ SuperDraft over the last decade. Since it’s still early days with the U-Sports draft, it makes a lot of sense to lay the groundwork for a more in-depth look at it down the road.

So, let’s have at it!

First, a quick primer on what they are drafting for those that are less familiar with CanPL and Canadian soccer as they are with MLS.

U-Sports is the latest (and worst - long story and a much different blog post) name that identifies the Canada’s university sport system. Unlike the NCAA, U-Sports’ athletes do not receive athletic scholarships, so typically the best prospects go south rather than staying at home. However, in recent years, U-Sports’ programs have started to offer more resources for student-athletes – they stress the student part and help get as many of their athletes academic awards as possible. Additionally, since sports are considered an extra curricular activity that enhances the university experience for all students, the programs are able to offer what’s called Athletic Awards to students after they have completed an academic year at the school.

If that sounds like splitting hairs on the whole “no scholarships” thing that’s because it 100% is. So, often the only difference between a partial scholarship in the U.S. (which is what 90% of male soccer players from Canada are getting offered in U.S. programs) and a top player at a top U-Sports program, is that the Canadian-based player would need to wait until the end of their first year at the school to get the award. Incoming students are not permitted to receive awards. Many athletes will take a class in the Summer semester to get an award in the month following their first year before then getting another award in the Sept of their second year.  That effectively gets them an Athletic Award in all four years of their experience. That practice is called double-dipping and it isn’t talked about in polite company.   

In case you’re wondering how I know all this, I covered Canadian university football (like, throw the ball football) for the better part of five years and this stuff is a significant big deal in that sport. About half of what I wrote about back then related to this stuff.

The bottom line is that there is more talent in U-Sports than most people realize (and, if you are a young player, or parent to one, reading this you should look carefully at what is being offered in the U.S., as it might not be better than what you can get at home).   

So, the U-Sports draft has talent. And, as a young league that needs domestic slots filled, the U-Sport draft holds a much more important role now for CanPL than the SuperDraft does for MLS.

Preamble done, let’s get down to the numbers. The format will be the same as in the SuperDraft, so players that have played 75% of games will be considered Exceptional picks, 50% Solid, 25% Poor and less than 25% Failure.

Since the Island Games was such a short season, I’m not going to give a score to players drafted in 2020. I’ll wait until they’ve had an opportunity to play a full season. For players drafted in 2019, I will look at both seasons combined, minus the playoff final in 2019 and championship game in 2020 ,as well as the group stage playoff in 2020.

That means Exceptional players will need to have played 26 or more games, Solid players 18, Poor 9 and failures less than 9. Since there have been so few players drafted, I’ll look at all three rounds.

The results:

CPL team – Player – Position – University – Age - Status

  1. Cavalry FC - Gabriel Bitar – Midfielder – Carleton – 21 – 0 - Failure

  2. Valour FC  - Dylan Carreiro – Midfielder – York – 25 – 30 - Exceptional

  3. Forge FC - Jace Kotsopoulos – Forward – Guelph – 22 – 4 - Failure

  4. York9 FC - Daniel Gogarty – Defender – York – 23 – 20 - Solid

  5. HFX Wanderers FC - Peter Schaale – Defender - Cape Breton – 23 – 26 - Exceptional

  6. Pacific FC - Thomas Gardner – Forward - British Columbia – 21 – 0 - Failure

  7. FC Edmonton - Connor James – Goalkeeper – Alberta – 23 – 28 - Exceptional

  8. FC Edmonton - Ajeej Sarkaria - Forward  - Alberta – 24 – 10 - Poor

  9. Pacific FC - Zach Verhoven – Forward - British Columbia – 21 – 31 – Exceptional

  10. HFX Wanderers FC - André Bona – Defender – UQAM – 30 – 25 - Solid

  11. York9 FC - Emmanuel Zambazis – Midfielder – York – 22 – 4 - Failure

  12. Forge FC - Aboubacar Sissoko – Midfielder – Montréal – 24 – 9 - Poor

  13. Valour FC - Lewis White – Defender - Cape Breton - ? – 0 – Failure

  14. Cavalry FC - Joel Waterman – Midfielder - Trinity Western – 24 – 21 - Solid

  15. Cavalry FC - Easton Ongaro – Forward – Alberta – 21 – 28 – Exceptional

  16. Valour FC - Jack Simpson – Midfielder - Cape Breton - ? – 0 – Failure

  17. Forge FC - Marko Mandekic – Midfielder – Toronto - ? – 0 – Failure

  18. York9 FC - Daniel Pritchard – Defender - Cape Breton - ? – 0 – Failure

  19. HFX Wanderers FC - Christian Oxner – Goalkeeper - Saint Mary's

  20. Pacific FC - Nick Fussell  - Midfielder - British Columbia – 23 – 24 - Solid

  21. FC Edmonton - Noah Cunningham – Defender – Alberta - ? – 0 – Failure

Early days for this, so I’m not sure if I will keep the same measures as the MLS Draft moving forward. For one thing, I suspect the average career length will be shorter than what it is in MLS (until salaries improve).

As with the MLS draft, I’m only considering what the player did in CanPL. So, a player like Joel Waterman is going to get a lower rating than what we understand his talent demands. It’s the nature of how this rating system works.

One thing that jumped out to me immediately is that the average age of players drafted was slightly higher in CanPL. About a year older on average, with the CanPL coming in at an average age of picks of 22.625.

Let’s break-out the exceptional players to see if anything jumps out:

  • Valour FC  - Dylan Carreiro – Midfielder – York – 25 – 30 – Exceptional

  • HFX Wanderers FC - Peter Schaale – Defender - Cape Breton – 23 – 26 – Exceptional

  • FC Edmonton - Connor James – Goalkeeper – Alberta – 23 – 28 – Exceptional

  • Pacific FC - Zach Verhoven – Forward - British Columbia – 21 – 31 – Exceptional

  • Cavalry FC - Easton Ongaro – Forward – Alberta – 21 – 28 – Exceptional

So…not really. The average age of the Exceptional picks was 0.025 younger at 22.6. So, the same. No team had more than one player in the exceptional category and all positions were equally represented.

The University of Alberta did have two representatives, which stands to reason as UofA is arguably the most successful U-Sports' program across all sports (and is one of the most generous with Athletic Awards…).

As stated, this project will likely provide more insight next year. It’s still early days for the draft and the league.

I will provide some more coverage on the 2021 U-Sport draft tomorrow in this space.