Future of player development in Ontario


SAAC is in its 10th year of running a standards-based high performance player development league, providing members with a full pyramid of programming U8 to U20. SAAC members are assessed through stringent technical standards by both SAAC and the OSA – requirements developed by SAAC and on which the OPDL standards are largely based.

SAAC currently has 19 members representing over 3,500 players participating in mixed divisions from U8 to U12 as well as U13 to U17 male divisions, U13 & U15 female divisions and a senior male (U20) division. SAAC is also extensively integrated with OSA competitions at the senior level, with active participation in the Ontario Soccer League (OSL) and Ontario Women’s Soccer League (OWSL). As well, 25% of the 2015 Ontario League1 Men’s Division (4 teams) and 29% of the Women’s Division (2 teams) are SAAC-based.

SAAC has been able to thrive and grow for 10 years on the common and evolving vision of its members towards player development. We allow development groups the flexibility to provide unique offerings and the ability to customize their programming, while maintaining a base of technical standards. The SAAC mission is to assist our members to develop world class soccer players in Canada on a continual & systematic basis by providing their players with best-in-class training, facilities & competition.

In 2013 the SAAC membership agreed to make an application to enter the OPDL. SAAC members believed we could help to unify soccer in the province and create a new foundation for player development by bringing the top technical people and players into a common stream. Our belief was founded in our actions, our participation in the design and now practice of a standards based development framework. Given SAAC’s extensive and unique experience in building a standards based league, we felt the formative years of the OPDL would benefit greatly from SAAC membership involvement.

However, a number of factors transpired to derail this vision. SAAC Academies were kept out, and the opportunity to provide stability and influence from the extensive SAAC Academy experience in the inaugural season of the OPDL was lost. Unfortunately, this was also a setback to build a truly unified player development pathway in Ontario.

SAAC Academies had been extended an invitation to re-apply for OPDL, however the terms of involvement do not currently align with the pathway that the SAAC Academies have spent years developing. It is the strong belief of our members that they can best continue their track record of player development within the current SAAC system. Numerous SAAC Academy players have graduated into National team pools and that number continues to grow due to SAAC members proving, over and over to National Team coaches, they can properly prepare players for the next level.

The SAAC Board of Directors has notified its membership that the OPDL shall not be integrated into the SAAC competition model at this time, meaning that through the terms of the license agreement for SAAC Competitions, current SAAC members wishing to go this route would be ineligible to submit teams into SAAC competitions. We firmly believe that the future of our players is best served in the current SAAC model – a proven development environment with 10 years of history.

SAAC members will continue to work within the OSA as affiliated organizations, while endorsing our teams for tournaments, the OSL, OWSL and League1. The SAAC leadership will also continue to work with the OSA and other serious stakeholders to help improve the overall development pathway for elite players.



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