It is everything Rob Friend envisioned when he and Josh Simpson began building a youthful Pacific FC roster last year for the inaugural soccer season of the Canadian Premier League.
Pacific FC players Terran Campbell, Noah Verhoeven, Kadin Chung and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère were named to the 50-player Canadian national team provisional list for the Olympic qualifying tournament for Tokyo 2020.
PFC makes up half of the eight CPL players listed.
Also named were former PFC players Émile Legault, who was not re-signed and is currently unattached, and David Norman Jr., now with Inter-Miami of Major League Soccer.
Men’s Olympic soccer is U-23, with three over-agers allowed, because FIFA does not want it rivalling the World Cup. This emerging next generation is exactly the demographic Friend and Pacific FC president Simpson focused on when putting together the PFC lineup.
“Obviously, we’re very proud. . . . we believe in these players,” said Friend, PFC’s CEO and GM.
“Especially because the U-23 international level is directly in line with our club’s approach of giving opportunities to young Canadian players. PFC is highly represented on the Canadian U-23 list. It’s four PFC players, and six, if you add [Legault and Norman Jr.] from last year. Six is a very significant contribution to this list. It [equals] the Vancouver Whitecaps’ six players.”
Other CPL players named are Yohan Le Bourhis of Valour FC of Winnipeg, Diyaeddine Abzi of York9 of Toronto, Daniel Kinumbe of Halifax’s HFX Wanderers and Easton Ongaro of FC Edmonton.
“That is exactly what our league is about,” said Friend.
“Hopefully, these players make the Canadian team and qualify for the Olympics and get international attention in Tokyo to advance their careers and move on to bigger clubs.”
Sixteen of the players on the 50-player provisional list have caps with the Canadian senior national team.
The final 20-player roster will be announced March 11. Those players will attend the Canadian pre-tournament camp beginning March 13 to be followed by three pool qualifying games against El Salvador on March 21, Haiti on March 24 and Honduras on March 27 in Group B of the 2020 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying championship. The top two nations from Group B advance to the CONCACAF semifinals March 30 against either Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico or the U.S. from Group A. The nations that win their semifinals will earn the two CONCACAF berths into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and advance to the CONCACAF final April 1.
Some already-starry U-23 Canadian players in European leagues — 19-year-old sensation Alphonso Davies of Bayren Munich and 20-year-old Jonathan David of Belgian side Gent — will not play for Canada at the U-23 level. They will be part of the senior national team in the 2022 World Cup qualifying process, which includes a game against Trinidad and Tobago on March 27 at Westhills Stadium in Langford.