Toronto’s MASL expansion team doesn’t begin play until 2018, but the group made a number of significant announcements Tuesday in a packed and star-studded Great Hall at the Mississauga Civic Centre.
Foremost, the Canadian Arena Soccer Association (CASA) was introduced, led by President Joe Vaccaro, and dedicated to a long-term vision of building the arena game in Canada. CASA will be the Canadian delegation in the World Minifootball Federation.
The bottom of the nascent arena soccer pyramid in Canada will be the Youth Arena Premier League (YAPL), a U-18 league playing out of the Canlan Sportsplex in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, that is expected to house 1,500 boys and girls in various age groups. The next step will be the Arena Premier League (APL), a semi-pro league that will play their games in a World Cup format at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga. At the top will be the MASL team, that will also occupy the Hershey Centre, and the Canadian National Arena Soccer Team.
“The APL will showcase local arena soccer talent that could be part of Team Canada in 2018,” said Vaccaro. “This is how CASA plans to support our national team, by building a national program, supported by youth and grassroots leagues and competition. CASA believes Mississauga is the right place with the right history to build CASA’s national program.”
Part of that history includes new Team Canada Technical Director Hector Marinaro, who grew up “literally two blocks away”. Marinaro, who is arena soccer’s all-time leading scorer, has been away from the arena game since coaching the PASL’s Cleveland Freeze in 2013/14, but enjoyed a legendary 19-year playing career indoors.
Team Canada will hit the turf running with an exhibition game against the Mexican National Futbol Rapido Team on October 1. Former Montreal Impact and Toronto ThunderHawks player Phil Ionadi was named General Manager of Team Canada. “I am proud to serve as the GM and be part of the executive team that will select the players for the upcoming world championships that will be played in Mexico in 2018,” Ionadi said.
Milwaukee Wave Head Coach Giuliano Oliviero was introduced as the coach of Team Canada. Oliviero enjoyed a 19-year arena playing career, including four years in Canada with the Impact and ThunderHawks. “I can’t stress enough the importance of developing a national program for Canadian arena soccer,” Oliviero said. “It is something that has been missing from the Canadian soccer landscape for many years.”
Oliviero welcomed to the stage the first three Team Canada players, goalkeeper Josh Lemos and defender Daniel Chamale (Milwaukee Wave), and forward Freddy Moojen (Florida Tropics).
Other luminaries in attendance included Jerry Spanos, Vice President of Litecorr Global, CASA’s first sponsor; Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie; MLS legend and Canadian international star Dwayne De Rosario; noted sports broadcaster Cam Stewart; and long-time arena soccer veteran Rick Titus.
Toronto MASL CEO Sergio Giancola spoke last and thanked everyone who has undertaken this “exciting journey”. “Fasten your seat belts, Mississauga,” he said. Arena soccer is back in Canada.