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Isacco Touches On CPL Wages

By on February 18, 2021 1 4838 Views

Former York United assistant coach Carmine Isacco has touched on some of this month’s tough subjects, including Canadian Premier League domestic salaries, international player wages, and a potential imbalance that he says could see untapped domestic talent slip through the cracks.

Isacco has never been afraid to speak what’s on his mind, and that consistently rang true again last night on the Futbol Weekly podcast. During the seventy-minute episode, Isacco put forth some numbers that will be of interest to those following the domestic game closely.

For starters, while the Canadian Premier League salary cap is generally assumed to be about $750,000, the league has refrained from ever disclosing it. When Isacco began talking about the smaller end of player salaries, he became the first technical staff member to publicly mention a specific salary cap number, stating that the CPL’s salary cap was indeed $750,000.

You’re looking at the salary cap in CPL, it’s tough. $750,000. You’re looking at some kids – because they don’t have a minimum salary – two years ago we worked with a minimum salary, but it wasn’t actually an issue, there’s kids that can come into the league on our 23 man roster and play for $10,000.

Carmine Isacco

Instilling a minimum salary is something that PFA Canada, the union that hopes to collectively represent the league’s players, hopes to achieve. While this union disclosed last year that around half of the league’s talent were making under $22,000 a year, it also recently stated that CPL sides, on average, only utilized about $500,000 of the salary cap that Isacco mentioned.

In our talks with players, there has also been some discussion that the salary cap may be increasing to $800,000 this year, but the obvious caveat there is that it appears not every side will ultimately come close to filling it regardless.

Of the players who make under $22,000, PFA Canada stated that many made under $15,000. The bulk of these athletes are likely the league’s younger domestic players, though in our discussions with CPL athletes from coast-to-coast, it’s clear that some veteran talent lands in the minimum-wage-or-less bracket as well.

Touching on the subject of international athletes in the league, Isacco gives examples implying that internationals have comparatively high wages compared to the average domestic player. As per CPL rules, each club can have a maximum of seven international players on its roster, but a new league rule related to the league’s scouting partner will now force clubs to have a minimum of four – and that means salary space that might have gone to domestic talent is now going elsewhere.

The elephant in the room is that international players. That analytics group, that 21st [Club] that comes in, puts their names into a computer, looks at their value according to games played and this situation, this situation, and from that deduce that he’s better than Emmanuel Zambazis and they should make $60,000 or $40,000 compared to Emmanuel Zambazis, [who] makes $10,000…

Carmine Isacco

Back when he was an assistant coach with York United, Isacco made it no secret that he thought U SPORTS athletes gave the league the best bang for buck ratio. Zambazis had arrived to York United as a second round pick in the 2018 CPL-U SPORTS Draft, signing a pro contract with the club in April. He ended up terminating his contract mid-way through the inaugural Canadian Premier League season.

The former Canada U-20 athlete was made eligible for the 2021 CPL-U SPORTS Draft this year, but went unselected and remains outside of the professional game to this day.

Emmanuel Zambazis York9 FC
Emmanuel Zambazis playing for York9 FC (now York United) in 2019.

It’s hard to argue that players like Rodrigo Gattas, Dominique Malonga, Akeem Garcia, or Joao Morelli wouldn’t deserve comparably high wages for their input, though sentiment we’ve heard from several domestic players is that the quality of international talent does not always warrant the comparably high wages Isacco is talking about.

That’s not saying internationals have it easy: many, like Nik Ledgerwood, state that these players aren’t given much time to settle. If they didn’t hit the ground running, the likelihood that they’ll be replaced by a new international next year is high. At that point, it’s on to the next 21st Club-vetted arrival.

Regardless of where the internationals arrive from, Isacco believes the domestic-versus-international pay inequity leaves Canadian talent with little options at the end of the day.

When you plug in a number and they say he’s playing in the third tier in Argentina or Ecuador, that league is way higher than CPL, thus he should be making this…and then you lose the reality of the situation. It’s not only a lateral move, it’s a lower move, and players like Zambazis, Gogarty, Carreiro, Sacramento, they don’t have the opportunity to fail.

Carmine Isacco

Speaking on the subject of Dylan Carreiro, who departed from Valour FC and was linked with York United prior to his early retirement, Isacco pointed to the current wage levels as a key reason for his exit. Much like Luca Gasparotto, Carreiro has a family to look after, and Isacco implies that the money simply wasn’t sustainable enough for the former Canadian U-20 Male Player of the Year to keep playing at home.

He doesn’t want to retire, but when you’re offered $25,000 and you can go be a teller at TD Bank for 40, 50, 60 and kind of start a semblance of a life with that, then you’re scratching your head a little bit.

Carmine Isacco

A common sentiment that we’ve heard is that the league is better situated for young talent taking a shot at the pro level, rather than more established players. While the league has seen breakthrough youngsters like Easton Ongaro, Mohamed Farsi, and Tristan Borges make waves (and older first-year professionals like Aboubacar Sissoko, too), Isacco says that a lot of untapped Canadian talent may be missed out on under the current modus operandi of the league.

Because of this algorithm, because of analytics, and I say this with all respect – you know how many Jonathan Osorios and Mark Anthony-Kayes are out there because we don’t give them those opportunities? You know what, if Alistair Johnston, or Kamal Miller, or Dayne St. Clair were in different situations, they might not even have gotten a shot in the CPL. They might not even have gotten a spot on the roster. Put that into perspective. That’s a very, very true statement.

Carmine Isacco

According to Isacco, that’s something that people need to look into in a league that’s marketed as by Canadians, for Canadians. The former York United assistant coach urged the league to trust in Canadian players, stating that they had a lot of value too.

Despite his criticisms, Isacco was complimentary of the teenage talent showcased by his former side at The Island Games, stating that youngsters like Ijah Halley, Max Ferrari, and Lowell Wright were good players that were showcased as a result of the league’s domestic U-21 minimum player minutes rule, which will increase from 1,000 to 1,500 in the upcoming season. For its part, York United has disclosed that most of its current athletes are on multi-year deals with contract options for further extensions.

If the profile of the league’s young domestic talent can be raised, those players might catch interest from higher levels. As Isacco puts it, that’s why Atletico Madrid invested in Ottawa: to find the next Alphonso Davies in a league that puts an emphasis on giving its domestic youth top flight minutes at the professional level.

With plenty of discourse revolving around salaries in the Canadian Premier League this week, it’ll be interesting to what unfolds ahead of, during, or after the 2021 Canadian Premier League season.

The league is hopeful that its third-ever campaign can launch on the Victoria Day Long Weekend, though like many businesses, what’s ultimately possible will be determined by health guidelines at the time.

The full episode of the Futbol Weekly podcast can be found here.

1 Comment
  • Bobby Graham 3 years ago

    Excellent article and Carmine is so right. If you are going to have a Professional League, you have to pay Professional Wages. Otherwise you are going to get more players retiring as they cannot afford to play for $10K and most were getting under $22K . Also import players should be impact players not players from third tier soccer leagues. Spend more money on players not analytics and Players have to come first if we want this league to exist.

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