The Canadian Premier League (CPL), set to start play in 2019, opens the door for many Canadians to reach their goals of becoming a professional. The CPL isn’t only for the young generation – it’s also for players currently playing at higher amateur levels, players like Paul Hamilton, who hinted to being open to a return to the professional soccer scene.
First and foremost, FC Edmonton is not part of the CPL at the moment, which will be starting in 2019 but they are pushing hard for a spot in the league.
FC Edmonton has to meet some of the CPL requirements first. in order to do so.
The Eddies hope to strike a deal with the City of Edmonton to expand Clarke Field to meet the CPL requirements for a stadium, but no deal has been struck yet. The stadium capacity has to be expanded to 7,000 seats, and they also need primary tenant status, per CPL guidelines, and to control most of the revenue coming from concession.
Sunday’s Al Classico match versus the Foothills was the first time Hamilton put on the FC Edmonton jersey since departing from the club in 2012. Hamilton made over 50 appearances for Edmonton and was a prominent figure in the Edmonton backline. He served as the Eddies’ captain against Calgary, and despite a slow start, the center-back had a strong performance in-front of a packed house at Clarke Stadium.
“I think that’s the most fans I’ve played in front of at an FC Edmonton game,” Hamilton said following Al-Classico. “I wasn’t here when the stands were put in, but it’s great to see this many people come and support the team. It’s good to play with players from the past. It brings back some good memories. It was nice to see some of the older guys put the jersey on and play with each other.”
The CPL is for everyone. Including players whose professional careers have been over for a while. In the case of Hamilton, the 30-year-old center back isn’t closing any doors on a possible comeback, but suggested it will be difficult.
“Yeah, who knows,” Hamilton added on a possible comeback. “I’ll be 31 when the CPL starts next year. I am not saying it is out of the cards, but I don’t know what the future holds for me. I have a young family now, so who knows.”
“There are some good young players [in the academy], they definitely held their own,” Hamilton added. “I think what Jeff and [his staff] are doing is great and it bodes well for the future of this club to have a good foundation when the CPL starts with an already established academy. The CPL is huge. Most kids stop after youth or after playing post-secondary. But to have another avenue on your front door step is great. It bodes well for the future of Canadian soccer.”
If given the head coaching role, FC Edmonton Technical Director Jeff Paulus isn’t opposed to bringing former FC Edmonton players back to the team. Paulus didn’t bring former players to the team for Al Classico for a PR stunt. He did want to give back to some of the players, but for some of the Alumni’s, Sunday’s match can be considered an early audition for FC Edmonton’s potential CPL team, if the club can secure a spot in the new league.
“I’d be lying if I said that was just an exhibition for us,” Paulus said after Al Classico. “I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, but I wanted to showcase players like Ajay Khabra and Mortosi, who have come from our academy. The future of the CPL has places for players like [those two] and players like Bruno Zebie and Ajeej Sarkaria. There is a place for former academy players.”
Hamilton has continued playing at the highest possible level in the amateur league. Currently captaining Edmonton Scottish of the Edmonton Major League, Hamilton has helped his club earn their first ever Canadian Men’s National Championship. He wasn’t the only player from Scottish that featured in Al Classico. Sam Lam and Haris Kevac were two other players that also play for Scottish. Players like those from Scottish and other Alberta Major Soccer League (AMSL) teams could, one day, potentially be playing play in the CPL.
“I have a great relationship with [Edmonton Scottish Technical Director] Kevin Possaint.” Paulus said. “Certainly there are players at Edmonton Scottish that I think, if they get fit and want to take the game seriously, that there are opportunities for them in this league. I think the CPL will provide a place for the players that are on the Edmonton Scottish’s of the world, the Green & Gold at the moment, and other AMSL to find a way to at least get a chance to cut it out in this league. No stone should be unturned for players.”
So, if you are a soccer player playing in Edmonton and you’re still chasing the dream of becoming a professional soccer player, your dream it could still come true, and you can thank the arrival of the CPL for that.