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Canadian Soccer Association officials envision new league similar to CHL

A soccer ball is seen with a maple leaf in the background in this file photo.

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani envisions a soccer league that functions like the Canadian Hockey League, with teams playing in several regional leagues and then meeting for a national title.

The CSA has released a 32-page report entitled "A League of Our Own" on the viability of a second-tier league. It's the national organization's latest attempt to develop a framework for players, building it in below Major League Soccer.

"The initial impetus of the report was this: for as long as I can remember, for maybe 100 years of our association, professional soccer has come and gone and almost done whatever it has wanted in our territory without the CSA really looking at it," Montagliani said Monday on a conference call.

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"We just felt it was time we looked at it from a national body perspective, in terms of where we want it to go in our best interest as it aligns with our player development and coaching development model."

The study, directed by former national team player James Easton, was to help identify the best pathway for Canada's young talented players to reach an elite level in soccer.

The recommendation of the report, which Montagliani said was "more of a start than a finish," was leagues operating in Canada's four largest soccer markets — Ontario, Quebec, B.C., and Alberta — with the focus on players aged 18-23.

The four regional leagues would operate like the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League do in the CHL.

"What the Canadian Hockey League does, which is governed by Hockey Canada, is create the structure for standardizing player contracts, other things as well in terms of technical criteria and obviously runs the Memorial Cup. That's the way we see our vision moving forward," Montagliani said.

What this means for existing regional leagues like the Ontario-based Canadian Soccer League remains to be seen. The CSL includes 16 clubs.

Montagliani said the CSL would operate under the auspices of the Ontario Soccer Association, and said he's already met with CSL and OSA officials to facilitate the league's sanctioning under the OSA.

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