Major League Soccer unveiled its updated 2011 roster composition rules today, and one of the items of special note for Vancouver Whitecaps FC fans, is a new rule requiring Canadian teams to have at least three Canadian players on their roster.
Obviously, the three-player minimum is simply a baseline, which MLS expects its Canadian teams to look to exceed. Vancouver is certainly up for that challenge, with Whitecaps FC Residency being the gold standard for player development in both Canada and the United States. The 'Caps already have three Canadian players on their roster - Terry Dunfield, Alain Rochat, and Residency product Philippe Davies - while several other players from the Residency program are in training camp, including Kyle Porter and Russell Teibert.
Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC, and Montreal Impact all have academies in place, designed to discover and develop talent for themselves and, by extension, for the Canadian national team. There is enormous incentive for Canadian clubs to identify and develop young homegrown Canadian talent, and it is something the 'Caps have been doing for some time.
Over the years, Whitecaps FC have clearly demonstrated they are committed to growing the sport of soccer in Canada through programs such as the Residency program and the women’s program, not to mention the club’s involvement in the community in general. There’s no question the Blue and White have had a huge impact on growing the sport of soccer in this country at all levels.
Domestic player roster requirements are nothing new to the ‘Caps. Going back to the days of the North American Soccer League (NASL), there were also minimum quotas on the number of domestic players. Of the 20 players who saw action for Whitecaps FC on the championship-winning team of 1979 - six were Canadian, although only three (Bobby Lenarduzzi, Bob Bolitho, and Buzz Parsons) played more than a handful of games. The quotas appear to have had the desired impact, as Canada enjoyed some of its greatest international success with the players that were developed in the NASL. Canada reached the men's soccer quarterfinals of the 1984 Olympics before qualifying for the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
Those successes also helped to inspire a new generation of Canadian players, leading to greatly increased enrolment at the youth level. That is something Whitecaps FC will definitely be hoping to do as well, when they take to the field in just under two months' time.