Courtesy of York United FC
Repping the Greater Toronto Area, York United is one of eight teams in the Canadian Premier League (CPL). The CPL is Canada's top-flight soccer league, and provides a competitive environment for developing players. Photo courtesy of York United FC.

York United FC Expands Its Access to Talented Players

Before this season, York United FC in Toronto relied on the United Football Academy for new young players. Now, a much wider pool of young players, from potentially over 20 youth academies, could be called on to play professional games for York United in the Canadian Premier League (CPL). 

The CPL was founded in 2019 to establish a professional nationwide soccer league in Canada. It requires clubs like York United to provide domestic players aged 21 and under a combined total of at least 2,000 minutes of game time each season. The hope is that the more senior of these now-young players will go on to represent Canada in upcoming tournaments, including the World Cup, when it rolls around in 2026.

The new potential partnerships come after the club was taken over late last year by new owners Game Plan Sports Group, consisting of brothers Ricardo, Eduardo and Miguel Pasquel. The Mexican brothers bring with them a rich history of soccer club ownership, including sporting franchises such as Club Necaxa, which plays in Mexico’s soccer league. 

“What’s changed is the exclusivity of the academy,” said Eoin O’Callaghan, vice president of content and communication strategy at York United, referring to the opening up of the potential talent pool. 

“They just want to create the best football club that they can. They want to be champions, they want to be CPL winners, they want to go and play in CONCACAF competitions, and they want to win Canadian Championships. And all of this stuff is part of their objectives, and that’s how the youth clubs fit in.” 

Could  York United eventually set up its own academy?

Ideally, a club like York United would have its own stadium and training complex, with the younger players training alongside their senior counterparts, and some of the academy talent joining in training sessions. Until the club has those facilities, however, York United would need to house the academy in a different location, which would make it very difficult to oversee. 

O’Callaghan says when the new owners do decide to “actually execute an academy plan,” it will need to include the senior team to enable a proper relationship between the academy and first team.

“It needs to be part of the same umbrella,” he says, which would include an academy director to guide post-training discussions. 

“There needs to be proper connective tissue, it needs to be a proper relationship.”

Despite the new ownership, York United remains tight with their old partners at United Football Academy.

“If there are some players they recommended to us and they are good young talents, of course we’re going to want to bring the best talent into our squad at any given moment,” says O’Callaghan.

One of York United’s rising stars, Max Ferrari, from Newmarket, Ont., is expected to play his 100th professional game during the upcoming season. 

“He joined us before the 2020 season, and if you take those 100 appearances, for someone who is 23 or 24, it is unlikely he would’ve gotten those professional minutes elsewhere,” explained O’Callaghan. 

“We’ve watched young players blossom for us relentlessly, and that’s been terrific, because, again, it is a strong message: if you are a good young player in our region, we will give you chances, we will give you time on the field, and that’s important for us.”