Of the 121 Canadian players that have featured in the first 25 seasons of Major League Soccer (MLS), more than half of them have featured in the league in the past four years. While the bulk of those players have featured with Canada’s three teams – Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Toronto FC and Montréal Impact – a growing number of MLS Domestics are making their mark with the US-based teams thanks to a Homegrown Player rule established in 2016 in cooperation between Canada Soccer and Major League Soccer.
The rule, which took effect at the start of the 2017 season, ensures that Canadian players who come through the Canadian player development system, either through an MLS academy (in Canada or USA) or a Canada Soccer approved youth club in the year prior to the year in which he turned 16, will be considered a domestic player upon signing his first professional contract with an MLS club.
“Canadian players continue to make their mark in Major League Soccer and we welcome the growing number of opportunities for our young players through the Homegrown Player rule for Canadians,” said Steven Reed, President, Canada Soccer. “The connection between the increased playing opportunities for Canada’s top young talent can largely be attributed to the introduction of the 2017 rule and ultimately the expansion of our Canadian Men’s National Team Player pool which will lead us to success on the international stage as we prepare to co-host the FIFA World Cup 2026™.”
This past season, a record 10 Canadian players featured in at least one MLS match for seven different US-based MLS teams. Eight of those 10 players featured in at least half the season and all 10 have a chance to feature in the upcoming MLS playoffs.
Sophomore Tajon Buchanan of the New England Revolution featured in all 23 regular-season matches in 2020 while last year’s leader Mark-Anthony Kaye of Los Angeles FC featured in 16 matches despite missing part of the season through injury.
Rookie fullback Alistair Johnston, who featured in 18 matches for Nashville SC, earned the most minutes of all Canadians with US-based MLS teams (1,365 minutes). Minnesota United FC rookie goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair posted six shutouts, the most by a Canadian MLS goalkeeper since Pat Onstad in 2009.
Other Canadian players with US-based teams in 2020 were Kamal Miller of Orlando City SC and Jordan Hamilton of Columbus Crew, both MLS Domestics, as well as veterans Tesho Akindele of Orlando City SC, Jay Chapman of Inter Miami CF, Raheem Edwards of Minnesota United FC, and Dejan Jaković of Los Angeles FC. In 2020, Jaković became the eighth Canadian (and first centre back) to surpass 10,000 MLS minutes (career, regular season).
In all, 39 Canadian players featured in at least one match during the 2020 MLS regular season, not counting another half dozen who dressed but did not feature. For the third year in a row, Canadian players featured in more than 400 matches and 24,000 minutes. Across the shortened 2020 season (23 matches instead of 34), Canadian players were on pace to surpass records for combined matches and minutes set last year (431 matches and 24,898 minutes in 2020 compared to 466 matches and 30,885 minutes in 2019).
The first round of the 2020 MLS Playoffs kick off 20 November with the Play-In Round followed by the First Round from 21-24 November. The Conference Semi-finals start 29 November followed by the Conference Finals on Sunday 6 December and the 2020 MLS Cup on Saturday 12 December. Both Toronto FC and the Impact de Montréal qualified for the 2020 MLS Playoffs, with matches broadcast in Canada on TSN and TVA Sports.