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Canadian Premier League teams add young soccer talent to rosters via U Sports draft

University of Toronto defender Anthony White, who was taken first overall in the CPL-U Sports draft Thursday by Vancouver FC, is seen in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Toronto

Expansion Vancouver FC added to its roster Thursday by taking Anthony White and Ameer Kinani with the first two picks of the CPL U Sports draft.

The eight Canadian Premier League clubs were allowed to each select two players from a list of 199 university athletes who declared for the draft, the biggest prospect pool in league history.

The draft was open to any U-Sports underclassmen with one to four years of eligibility remaining, provided they were in good standing and were planning to return to school the following year.

Eight of the 16 players selected were defenders

READ MORE: Atlético Ottawa’s Ollie Bassett wins CPL Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards

Players selected may be invited to pre-season training with their prospective club, where they can compete for a roster spot for the 2023 CPL season.

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Vancouver opened the draft by taking White, a defender from the University of Toronto, and Kinani, a forward from Toronto Metropolitan University. Selection order was then based on the 2022 order of finish, with the last-place team selecting first and CPL champion Forge FC going last in both rounds.

READ MORE: Hamilton’s Forge FC claims 3rd North Star Shield

Vancouver, which did not have a pick in the second round, made goalkeeper Callum Irving its first-ever signing on Wednesday,.

White, a centre back from Port Moody, B.C., has made 22 appearances for the Varsity Blues through two seasons, including 18 starts. In the past, he has trained at FC Nurenberg in Germany, as well as Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb and NK Sibenik. He won the inaugural League1 BC title with TSS Rovers this season.

“It is unique to find left-footed central defenders in the soccer market,” said Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi. “Anthony is a talented and intelligent young defender who has lofty goals for his soccer career.

“I was impressed by his ambition and look forward to getting to know him even better in future.”

White, a second-year kinesiology student, hopes to follow the lead of defender Lukas MacNaughton, who went from U of T to the CPL’s Pacific FC and MLS’s Toronto FC.

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Kinani, an Iraq youth international scored four goals in 11 games this season for Toronto Metropolitan University. He added 17 more in 20 games for ProStars FC in League1 Ontario this summer, and previously spent time with Cartagena FC in Spain.

READ MORE: Cavalry FC goalkeeper sets sights on 2026 World Cup

“Ameer is always dangerous in front of goal,” said Ghotbi. “With and without the ball, he is committed to running behind back lines and creating havoc with his pace.

“Ameer boasts a natural nose for the goal, and has the instincts needed to be in the right positions in the right moments.”

CPL-U Sports Draft

First Round

1. Vancouver FC, Anthony White, University of Toronto, defender, 2nd year; 2. Vancouver FC, Ameer Kinani, Toronto Metropolitan University forward, 1st year; 3. Halifax Wanderers, Anthony Stolar, Cape Breton University, defender, 2nd year; York United FC, Christopher Campoli, Ontario Tech University, midfielder, 4th year; 5. Valour FC, Guillaume Pianelli Balisoni, Universite du Quebec a Trois Rivieres, defenders, 3rd year; Pacific FC, Eric Lajeunesse, University of British Columbia, defenders, 1st year; 7. Cavalry FC, William Omoreniye, University of Calgary, midfielder, 1st year; 8. Atletico Ottawa, Junior Agyekum, Thompson Rivers University, midfielder 2nd year; 9. Forge FC, Miles Green, McMaster University, midfielder 4th year.

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Second Round

10. Halifax Wanderers, Aiden Rushenas, Dalhousie University, goalkeeper, 2nd year; 11. York United FC, Trivine Esprit, Ontario Tech University, midfielder, 1st year; 12. Valour FC, Samuel Laplante, Universite du Quebec a Trois Rivieres, defender, 1st year; 13. Pacific FC, Brandon Torresan, Trinity Western University, defender, 2nd year; 14. Cavalry FC, Eryk Kobza, University of Calgary, defender, 4th year; 15, Atletico Ottawa, Mohamed Bouzidi, Carleton University, forward, 1st year; 16. Forge FC, Milo Djuricic, York University, defender 4th year.

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