Here’s The 2023 Best Canadian U-21 Player Of The Year Nominees
The Canadian Premier League has always operated with the idea that the next generation of Canadian talent ought to come through Canada’s top flight domestic league. To that end, the league requires that each CPL team attribute 2,000 minutes of game time to domestic U-21 players, with each year seeing three of them being nominated for a CPL Award and a beautiful Innuit soapstone carving.
Here’s the young Canadian talent up for the award:
James Cameron — Vancouver FC
If you’ll pardon the pun, James Cameron directed a lot of attention to himself as he stepped smoothly into the professional game during his rookie season. The 18-year-old from North Vancouver stepped immediately into a starting role with the expansion side, only missing one match since his debut on June 11. The full-back has been present for every club win, leading the team in both tackles won per game and duals won.
We don’t often see 18-year-old athletes step into the kind of influence that James Cameron has. He’s proven confident in both his defensive duties and with attacking runs, with the future looking bright for the teenage full-back. With the nomination, he also makes history as the first Vancouver FC athlete up for a CPL Award.
Matteo De Brienne — Valour FC
What a season it’s been for 21-year-old Matteo de Brienne: he’s dazzled spectators with his blistering runs up the left flank, working tirelessly to bring some joy to Valour fans who haven’t had too much to smile about. Finishing the season with six goal contributions, the Ottawa native has turned heads both back in the nation’s capital and, apparently, in Major League Soccer circles as well.
The 21-year-old certainly has an eye for spectacular goals, and it’s hard to think of many defenders who seem to cover as much pitch as this man has in his second Valour season. Matteo becomes the third Valour player ever nominated for this award category, with Julian Dunn being the first in 2020 and Sean Rea ultimately winning it last year.
Kwasi Poku — Forge FC
Before the season began, it looked like young title winner Kwasi Poku might be set for Europe after training with BK Hacken. Instead, the 21-year-old returned to Tim Hortons Field to help his team to a second-place finish in the regular season, appearing regularly for the three-time champions on Forge’s left-hand flank.
Through 21 appearances, Poku has made two goals and two assists, with his movement, decision making, and technical skills showing maturity beyond his age. Picking up a team of the week nod in September, Kwasi will be hoping for an even bigger honour this month. If he does, he’d become the second Forge athlete to pick up the award since Tristan Borges in 2019.
The 2023 CPL Awards will take place in CPL Final host city Hamilton, Ontario on October 26. The exciting build-up to the league final will see all of the awards handed out, including the golden boot (which finished as a tie for Ollie Bassett and Myer Bevan, each on eleven goals), the coach of the year award, the player of the year award, the golden glove, defender of the year, and the aforementioned the best Canadian U-21 player of the year.
The rest of the award nominees will be revealed by the league over the course of the week.