League1 Ontario, together with League1 Canada, staged a U19 Men’s Showcase event at North Maple Regional Park on August 2nd and 3rd, which featured close to 60 of the top players born between 2003 and 2006 – almost all of whom play on L1O Premier or Reserve Division sides.
This was the second showcase of its kind; the inaugural event took place in 2019 and saw a team of the best U19 talents from Ontario take on a team representing Quebec. A total of five participants from that 2019 Showcase have gone on to earn Canadian Premier League contracts, the most notable being Max Ferrari of York United.
League1 Canada’s Domestic Amateur scout Anthony Totera orchestrated this event, with significant support from Aaron Nielsen who is the coordinator for domestic scouting for the Canadian Premier League.
“Aaron and I started this process three months ago,” said Totera.
“We have attended many matches in person, analyzed a tremendous amount of video and evaluated all of the statistics we could get our hands on to develop a preliminary roster of showcase invitees. After that, we worked closely with a number of coaches to zero in on what became our final list of participants.”
The players were divided into four teams, which were led by coaches Marko Milanovic (North Toronto Nitros), Patrice Gheiser (Vaughan Azzurri), John Yacou (ProStars), and Fab Panneta (Woodbridge Strikers).
The first day of the event was designed to allow the players to acclimatize to their new teammates and understand how the coaches were going to support them and help them perform to their potential in the next day’s Showcase games.
There were four matches scheduled for day two, with each team playing twice – the two victorious teams from the first round of games advancing to a final.
The four matches were recorded and the video was analyzed by league partner MSA. The match footage has been subsequently reviewed multiple times by Totera, Nielsen, and the coaches for the purpose of developing scouting bios for each participant.
“It is very important that the CPL coaches have a look at what’s in the treasure chest here in Ontario,” said Totera. “We intend to share video and scouting profiles for each of the players at the Showcase to those coaches so they can become familiar with them and keep tabs on them.
“There are a number of players in this group that are ready to break through and earn a place on a CPL squad in the near future.”
Vaughan Azzurri coach Gheiser said: “The COVID-19 pandemic had taken away the ability for these young players to compete outside of their club teams for the past two years.
“The Showcase is no different than a national team training camp in the fact that these guys know they have been recognized and they feel valued. Now they are measuring themselves against the best players, and also networking with them.
“It will give them that additional confidence which is important for their game, and they received pointers and feedback from other coaches that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. The event was excellent in that way.”
Milanovic said: "Great initiative by Anthony, Dino and Aaron to showcase our local talent, both on the player and coaching side.
"There hasn’t been a better time to promote and provide opportunities for Canadian players and coaches with everything that the men's national team has been able to achieve."
League1 Canada is in the early planning stages for a series of Women’s Showcases to be held in 2023, with the intent of highlighting players who have the talent and ambition to pursue professional soccer opportunities.
“Canada’s women have carried this country from an international soccer standpoint for the last 15-20 years – winning medals at Olympics, qualifying for multiple World Cups, and producing wonderfully talented athletes that have gone on to thrive all over the globe,” added Totera.
“It’s going to be a really important focus for us in 2023, with all hands on deck to make it happen.”
Additional Men’s Showcases are also on the cards in other regions across Canada in 2022 and 2023.
L1O Women's Reserve Final