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Canadian men’s soccer team cancels friendly vs. Panama over pay, dispute with federation

Canada is on their way to the 2022 World Cup, but their dispute with the federation puts the run-up in jeopardy.

The Canadian mens national team celebrate after defeating Jamaica 4-0 in their World Cup Qualifying match at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 27, 2022. - Canada qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years on Sunday with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Jamaica in Toronto. Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images

The work of the Canadian Men’s National Team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup was one of the great stories in international soccer over the past several years. A team with exactly one appearance in the signature event of the world’s game, one where they finished 24th out of 24 teams after losing three matches by a combined score of 5-0 at Mexico ‘86, finished on top of Concacaf qualifying to earn a bid to Qatar 2022.

With young stars such as Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, the forgotten nation by plenty of the soccer world finally has a reason to hope and believe. But a pit stop on the way to galvanizing the nation hit on Sunday, as the Canadian MNT refused to take the pitch for a friendly against Panama at Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium.

Canada Soccer is the federation that represents the nation with FIFA, as well as governs the game domestically. Canada Soccer Business is a marketing arm with a financial arrangement involving Canada Soccer, and also owns the eight-team domestic men’s league in the country. Canda Soccer Business also acts as “representation for all corporate partnerships and media rights” for Canada Soccer’s core assets.

Canada Soccer Business issued a statement in regard to the issue about transparency.

Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) was incredibly disappointed to learn through social media that tonight’s game between the Canadian Men’s National Team and Panama was cancelled, but we fully support the Men’s and Women’s National Team players in a call for transparency from Canada Soccer.

In January of 2019, as part of the Canada Soccer strategic plan, CSB entered into an agreement to help grow this sport in Canada at all levels, including guaranteeing sponsorship and broadcast revenue that previously did not exist, and aid in developing and launching a badly needed domestic Tier One professional league, the Canadian Premier League. We have also committed to working with Canada Soccer on the development of an equivalent women’s Tier One domestic league.

If the allegations of the players are true, it would make sense that the team would be ready to walk away from basically everything but the World Cup itself if they don’t have some kind of contract or arrangement. And not knowing what kind of revenue is being generated through their success makes it difficult to start a baseline discussion.

For now tickets are still on sale for the Concacaf Nations League match against Curacao, also scheduled for BC Plays, on Thursday night. Whether the players are willing to concede a competitive match instead of just a friendly is still unknown. The Nations League is a competition itself, as well as an event that determines positions for Concacaf teams in competitions such as the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.

We’ll see if Les Rouges can at least come to an interim agreement to take the pitch on Thursday.