Canadian U14 and U16 Championships – new format needed

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El Mehdi Ibn Brahim has already been pegged as an early favourite to take home the U-14 Cup Top Goal Scorer Award. The Ahuntsic Braves forward found the back of the net seven times, coincidently matching his lucky number seven jersey. Quebec dominated its opening match of the tournament against the Yukon Strikers with an imposing 18:1 win against players hailing from the Land of the Midnight Sun.

I really have to wonder about the message these national championships send. 18-1? At what point does inclusiveness start to detract from the whole point of having a championship? I’d like to know if the tournament has the standard goal difference cap (usually five) where any goals scored after a five goal spread doesn’t count in the goals for/against tie breaker. That gets rid of the disincentive to run up the score.

But then that begs the question, should teams that have qualified to represent their provinces at a national championships be expected to do anything other than compete and play their best. Should they, because of a format that allows teams that are nowhere near their calibre, have to hold back or deal with artificial constraints that don’t reward a start to finish complete performance?

What do you do with the Yukon in situations like this? My last competitive soccer experience was with Westside FC at the men’s national amateur championships in Saskatoon in 2000. This was also over the Thanksgiving long weekend and featured a very compact six games in six days schedule (that’s why I haven’t played since; I’m still recovering from the trauma of that schedule on my body). We had the five goal cap in place and because our first game of the tourney was a tie against Ontario (the other strong team on our side of the draw) it was clear that it likely would come down to goal difference. That meant each of us went out with the goal of a 5-0 victory. We beat Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Quebec 5-0 and then faced the Yukon the night before the final. We had our five goals at half time but while this was going we were making sure the Yukon guys (who took the whole thing very well) knew that we weren’t trying to show them up but we needed the five goals and we also need some rest as the final (which we lost to Manitoba) was the next morning  so we started taking guys off towards the end and finished with nine players and a 7-0 win.

Is that what a men’s national amateur championship should look like? No. And I’m really not sure that the current youth format is much better.

I think it’s time they looked at what international hockey does and have some sort of B group that plays a qualifying round amongst itself so that the weakest of the weak don’t get thrown on the field with the strongest of the strong. They still get the opportunity to participate against other provinces but hopefully in an environment that is more competitive for them. If you seeded everyone based on the previous year’s championships you could take the bottom six and have them play down to two in a series of shortened games. Those two would then advance to the Championship round against the top seeds.

Not only would it be more competitive but you could reduce the number of games each team played (aside from the two advancing from the B pool – but playing shorter games mitigates this) so that the final doesn’t resemble 22 drunks staggering around a soccer field, thoroughly knackered, after too many games in too few days.

But 18-1? What purpose does that serve?

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One Response to Canadian U14 and U16 Championships – new format needed

  1. K says:

    Excellent, and yes, it’s a waste of the “strong” and “weak” teams’ time and money as well.

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