Canadian Premier League schedules cross-country tryouts

Canadian Premier League soccer coaches (left to right) Jeff Paulus (FC Edmonton), Jim Brennan (York 9), Tommy Wheeldon (Cavalry FC) Alex Bunbury, who is running the CPL trials, Stephen Hart (HFX Wanderers), Michael Silberbauer (Pacific FC) and Rob Gale (Valour FC) pose for a photo at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ont. (Canadian Premier League/CP)

Want to play in the Canadian Premier League? Here’s your chance.

The fledgling Canadian pro soccer league is holding open tryouts for men 16 and over in seven Canadian cities, starting Sept. 20 in Halifax. Registration is $200 for the two-day trials, although you will have to survive the cut to get to Day 2.

It’s a start to populating the rosters of HFX Wanderers FC, York 9 FC, Forge FC, Valour FC, Cavalry FC, FC Edmonton and Pacific FC ahead of the league’s kickoff next spring.

Former Canadian international forward Alex Bunbury will lead the trials, with coaches and/or technical staff from each of the seven CPL teams in attendance (Hamilton’s Forge FC has yet to announce its coach).

"There’s a lot of good players (in Canada) that very often have not been given the opportunity," said James Easton, vice-president of soccer operations for the CPL.

"We want to make sure that we’re looking far and wide, in all the nooks and crannies, and giving opportunities to players who think they can be professionals," he added. "So we don’t want to leave any stone unturned."

Easton has firsthand experience. His father Jim Easton was the first manager of the Vancouver Whitecaps whose early open trials produced two signings — two British players who were on holiday at the time and borrowed boots to take part in the tryouts.

The 51-year-old Bunbury, a member of the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame, won 66 caps for Canada between 1986 and ’97.

He got his start at 18 with the Hamilton Steelers in the now-defunct Canadian Soccer League before leaving at 23, first for England’s West Ham and then Portugal’s Club Maritimo.

Bunbury, who now makes his home in Minnesota, is his 19th year as a coach with the Minneapolis United youth soccer organization. He is also working with officials in Guyana (where he was born) on a sports academy and recently invested in a lower-division Portuguese pro team.

His son, Teal Bunbury, plays for the New England Revolution and the U.S. national team.

Easton says players who make an impression at the tryouts will earn a training camp invitation, with their local team likely getting first dibs.

His advice to those who come out is come prepared and be in shape.

"Sometimes you’re only given one opportunity and it’s up to you to make the most of that opportunity," said Easton, who played professionally for the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL), Scotland’s Dundee United and the Vancouver 86ers/Whitecaps (USL/MLS).

Bunbury says be yourself.

"First impressions in all walks of life are very important," he said. "And I think when you come into these open trials … you have to not come in wanting to fit in. You want to come there to stand out."

"You have to demonstrate confidence within yourself," he added. "Try not to be (Lionel) Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Just be yourself. And play within yourself. But don’t come passive. Come there with aggression and with knowledge and intelligence. And then once you do that, you’ll catch someone’s eye. You’ll catch my eye, that’s for sure. And I know, I’ve met with the coaches. You’ll catch their eyes as well."

Toronto FC held open tryouts prior to its inaugural 2007 season, drawing players from as far as Britain and Brazil. The trials drew some 1,000 players, who paid $110 for the privilege.

Canadian Premier League Open Trials

Halifax: Sept. 20-21

Montreal: Sept. 27-28

Hamilton: Oct. 1-2

Toronto: Oct. 11-12

Winnipeg: Oct. 18-19

Calgary: Oct. 25-26

Victoria: Nov. 5-6

For more information, visit www.CanPL.ca/gotgame

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.