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This article was published 3/3/2016 (2062 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TORONTO - Former Toronto FC skipper Steven Caldwell has played at the highest level of soccer on either side of the Atlantic.
Now the 35-year-old Scot has been tasked with helping Ontario soccer talent find its way to the top via a partnership between Toronto FC and the Ontario Soccer Association.
The hope is to keep that talent at home.
"My advice to any young kid or parents in this country would be stay here, don't get lost in Europe with 50 other kids. This is your path, this is the best way to become a professional football player in Canada," Caldwell said after a news conference announcing the partnership.
The idea is to create a player development pathway to the pro ranks and to promote the sport from the grassroots up, including getting TFC's corporate partners on board. It also calls for the development of programs for coaches and match officials.
Toronto FC will benefit, with top local prospects being funnelled into its system. Such homegrown talent is invaluable in Major League Soccer, given such talent does not have to be acquired through the draft. And the league is giving teams US$125,000 per season over the next two years to spend on homegrown player signings.
The sharing of information will include Toronto FC's preferred way of playing.
TFC academy director Laurent Guyot will work with OSA technical director Gary Miller in identifying top talent.
"This agreement allows TFC to help us achieve our goals. Likewise we're here to help TFC achieve their goals," said OSA president Ron Smale.
Said Toronto FC president Bill Manning: "It's a longterm play but I think it's something that as an organization we need to be doing."
The OSA represent 400,000 players, 70,000 coaches and 10,000 match officials.
For OSA executive director Johnny Misley, it should help prevent duplication of efforts between the two parties. And he hopes to expand the program to include Ottawa Fury FC of the NASL and, hopefully in the future, a pro women's team.
"We're also going to work with TFC about looking to get some women's programs up and running," said Misley.
It marks a new level of co-operation between the OSA and Toronto FC.
"When I first came into town one of the things I wanted to know was how is our relationship with the youth soccer association in this area, which is the OSA," said Manning, who joined Toronto last October.
"It may have been a little fractured in the past years, but right now we're starting a new journey and we're going to do it together."
Manning was part of a similar partnership with the Utah Youth Soccer Association when he ran Real Salt Lake. The MLS team had the association's coaching director sit in its coaching meetings, provided office space at Rio Tinto Stadium and sponsored the state cup.
RSL defender Phanuel Kavita is one of the homegrown players that came out of that partnership.
Caldwell has been involved in corporate development at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment since retiring last summer. He may still do some of that but will be pounding the pavement to speak to local clubs and to listen to what's needed.
"I think in the past we've kind of done a poor job of listening to these clubs and supporting them," he said.
For MLSE, it's also a chance to expose Caldwell to another part of the game.
"He's an asset, a massive asset for us, especially on the soccer side," said Manning.
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