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Canadian Premier League: CPL–U Sports Draft Picks Look To 2023

Canadian Premier League: CPL–U Sports Draft Picks Look To 2023

By Mike Rice.

Canada made their long-awaited return to the men’s World Cup this year, featuring at Qatar 2022, their second appearance and first since 1986 in Mexico.

In ’86 Canada lost all three times without scoring a goal, this year they at least added to the goals tally.

Superstar Alphonso Davies scored the opening goal in their second game against Croatia. A fitting player to place his name permanently in the record books in Canada.

Domestically, the Canadian Premier League (CPL) hopes to give more professional opportunities to homegrown players outside of the three MLS sides.

Entering its fifth season, players are beginning to see improvements in the quality of the league, as well as more access to continental competitions.

No CPL side will be competing in the 2023 CONCACAF Champions League in 2023 but the competition is to be expanded in 2024. This will allow two places for the CPL finals champion and regular season winner.

It’s a great opportunity for teams in the league to test themselves and develop on the international stage, playing sides from MLS, Liga MX, Caribbean, and Central American clubs.

For the league and the national team, the continual development and opportunities available is key to producing high-quality talent across the country.

Expansion is high on the list of priorities for the league which has seen Vancouver FC join as an expansion team in 2023. Sadly though, this is a replacement for FC Edmonton who have been forced to withdraw due to financial difficulties.

Academies continue to grow, but as in the US where the college system can lead into MLS, this is also a feasible route into the CPL.

The 2023 CPL USport Draft was conducted on December 15 and each team made their picks across two rounds.

The following players will have the chance to earn their place on a CPL roster this off-season and hope to take the next step in their careers.

Round 1

 1. Anthony White – Vancouver FC

The left-sided central defender is picked by Vancouver FC as the first pick of the draft. White has been drafted from The University of Toronto (UOT) and has spent time training with FC Nurenburg, Dinamo Zagreb ad NK Sibenik in Croatia.

White will no doubt have his sights set on following former Varsity Blues alumni Lukas MacNaughton who went from UOT to being a CPL champion before moving on to Toronto FC in MLS.

2. Amir Kinani – Vancouver FC

The Toronto Metropolitan forward was selected by Vancouver FC with their second pick as the new expansion side to the CPL. Football runs in his blood with his father being a former striker for the Iraq national team.

Kinani is an Iraq youth international who scored 17 goals in 20 games for ProStars FC in the Ligue 1 Ontario this year.

3. Anthony Stolar – Halifax Wanderers

The Cape Breton University full-back has shown great attacking potential and the ability to play both on the left- and right. He has bundles of energy to get involved on both sides of the ball and is a determined defender who is tough to beat.

4. Christopher Campoli – York United

The midfielder has been selected three times in the first round of the USports Draft, this is the second time by York United.

The keen goal-scoring midfielder went back to Ontario Tech each time after being selected and not quite making the rosters but looks to have reached the level that could see him become a difference maker in CPL this season.

5. Guillaume Pianelli Balisoni – Valour FC

The central defender out of Quebec was called by Forge last season, but this year will have the chance to make an impression in Winnipeg. Good on the ball and calm in possession, he has all the attributes to make the push this season.

6. Eric Lajeunesse – Pacific FC

The left-sided central defender stays local after being drafted from the University of British of Columbia. Composed and good passing ability coach James Merriman said “he suits our style of play very well” when discussing the pick.

Lajeunesse was the 2022 Canada West Men’s Soccer Rookie of the Year and will hope to make a big impact on the island in 2023.

7. William Omoreniye – Cavalry FC

A 6ft 1in full-back who can also play in midfield. Omoreniye is a strong defender who also provides a real threat in attack. He led the University of Calgary side in goals and was the joint leader on assists — impressive considering his position on the field.

He is drafted by his hometown side and will hope to secure an opportunity to represent them in 2023.

8. Junior Agyekum – Atlético Ottawa

Agyekum was the 2022 Championship MVP and part of the Championship All-Star team with Thompson River University this year. The midfielder is the type of combative and impressive central midfielder that Ottawa have been good at producing and recruiting in previous years.

9. Miles Green – Forge FC

 Last year’s champions selected forward Miles Green out of McMaster University. He had his best season to date in 2022 and is showing signs of developing into a top-quality professional in the CPL.

Round 2:

  1. Aiden Rushenas – Halifax Wanderers
  2. Trivine Esprit – York United
  3. Samuel Laplante – Valour FC
  4. Brandon Torresan – Pacific FC
  5. Eryk Kobza – Cavalry FC
  6. Mohamed Bouzidi – Atlético Ottawa
  7. Milo Djuric – Forge FC

Each player will have their opportunity to try and impress and secure their contracts for the 2023 campaign. The fifth season of this young league, which was hit by COVID for two of its early seasons.