Canada Men's Soccer Team Sitting Out Panama Friendly over Compensation Issues

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 5, 2022

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 13:  Alphonso Davies #19 of Canada bangs a supporters drum following the final whistle of a 2022 World Cup Qualifying match against Panama at BMO Field on October 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Canada's men's national soccer team went on a strike over player compensation ahead of a friendly against Panama on Sunday.

Westhead shared a copy of the letter outlining the players' requests, which includes a 40 percent share of World Cup prize money:

Rick Westhead @rwesthead

This is the "Dear Canada" letter released by Canada's national men's team players. <br>Asking for a review of Canada Soccer's broadcast &amp; sponsorship contracts, 40% of World Cup qualification money, and a joint contract with the women's team with equal compensation for match fees. <a href="https://t.co/STazGyJ9MW">pic.twitter.com/STazGyJ9MW</a>

Canada Soccer confirmed the match has been canceled:

Canada Soccer @CanadaSoccerEN

Canada Soccer's Men's National Team international match scheduled for Sunday 5 June at BC Place has been canceled. Additional details will be provided to all ticket purchasers. <a href="https://t.co/jUnxTTpZe5">pic.twitter.com/jUnxTTpZe5</a>

The timing of the news couldn't have been much worse for supporters who planned to attend the friendly.

Faizal Khamisa @SNFaizalKhamisa

Flew to Vancouver with my dad to come catch a game. Just limbo right now.

Ben Steiner @BenSteiner00

📍BC Place, Vancouver<br><br>Some Canada fans already lining up outside and around bars in the area 2 hours before the scheduled kickoff.<br><br>Some not sure of the news… expect a lot more to show up, despite the cancellation. <br><br>BC Place security and operations fully set-up. <a href="https://t.co/tM0TXZUmND">pic.twitter.com/tM0TXZUmND</a>

Joe Callaghan @JoeCallaghan84

Of course the situation is wildly fluid and complex but Canada Soccer’s communication (much like during the Iran debacle) has been woeful. Fans are left out here utterly clueless as to what’s happening.

In terms of pushing for meaningful change, the leverage for the men's national team has probably never been higher than it is now.

Whereas Canada's women's team has been a World Cup mainstay and sits sixth in the FIFA ranking, the men will be competing in their first World Cup since 1986 when they make the trip to Qatar later this year.

That has only raised expectations for Les Rouges in 2026, when Canada will be co-hosting the World Cup with Mexico and the United States.

The men's national team wrote how it hoped punching a ticket to the 2022 World Cup "would bring a level of respect and financial opportunity that could raise the standards & opportunities for the next generation of players in our country and change the trajectory of soccer in Canada forever."

The team also said that "Canada Soccer signed an agreement with Canadian Soccer Business that has completely compromised their ability to leverage the on-field success of our senior national teams."

Sunday's strike follows a similar dispute between the U.S. women's national team and U.S. Soccer. The women contended there was a wide gulf between their earnings and that of the men despite the USWNT winning back-to-back World Cups in 2015 and 2019.

The yearslong fight finally reached a conclusion in May, with U.S. Soccer signing collective bargaining agreements with the USMNT and USWNT that guaranteed equal pay, including uniform payouts from the World Cup.