TORONTO – The action never stops in world football: there is always another competition, another match to be played.
The MLS and USL regular seasons have come to a close, but with Canada set to kickoff the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, Toronto FC will be well represented at the tournament.
Six current TFC players – Julian Dunn, Noble Okello, Dante Campbell, Rocco Romeo, Terique Mohammed, and Jordan Perruzza – were named to Andrew Olivieri's Canadian side, as was TFC Academy alumnus Steffen Yeates, who joined the University of Connecticut in the fall.
Two more academy players, Luke Singh and Kaeson Trench, will be representing Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados, respectively, while first team striker Ayo Akinola scored a brace in the American's tournament opener, a 7-1 win over Puerto Rico on Thursday.
“Since the day I arrived and started to work on the academy side, I told people in [MLS], in the U.S. – anybody that would listen – that this market has as many high level potential pros as any of the markets in North America,” said TFC head coach and former academy director, Greg Vanney last week. “It was going to be a matter of identifying them, getting them into the best possible environment, [so] that they can develop with the best possible coaches and programming, put them in the best possible competition structures, and then we were going to start to see some high level players come out of this academy.”
TFC had three academy sides, U-15, U-17, and U-19, begin play in the US Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) in the fall. Each has enjoyed a strong start to the campaign.
The new league is something that Vanney said, “is going to help us a great deal on the competition side of things.”
“Our top end players haven't been able to get as many highly competitive matches as they need to be ready to be consistent players, day in and day out. [That is] what you have to be to be a professional,” continued Vanney. “We are starting to line up much more highly competitive games, which is one of the missing links, the next steps, to getting guys to that level.”
In addition to league play in the USSDA, TFC exposes their academy players to international club competition at a variety of tournaments, such as the Dallas Cup, the LIGA MX Internacional, the International Soccer Cup, to name but a few of the more recent outings.
For these players to further test themselves against more international competition with the Canadian side, who kick off their U-20 Championship this evening against Dominica – all matches will be streamed on Concacafgo.com, allows yet another chance for progress in the right direction.
“There is talent, abundant [talent],” added Vanney. “Not just for role players at the highest level, but difference-making talent in our academy. That's exciting and we're starting to see some of those players take steps forward. And in the next year or two they'll be making real headway towards the first team.”