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TSN Senior Correspondent

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Canada’s national men’s soccer team is refusing to play in a World Cup warmup game tonight in Vancouver against Panama because of a dispute over player compensation, the team’s players said in a joint statement released Sunday afternoon.

The players skipped scheduled training sessions the past two days at the University of British Columbia because of the dispute. The team is scheduled to face Curacao at BC Place on June 9. It’s unclear if that game will take place.

Canada Soccer has yet to respond to the players’ decision. The organization did release a tweet confirming Sunday’s match is cancelled.

In a two-page letter titled “Dear Canada,” the men’s national team players wrote that they feel disrespected by Canada Soccer.

“We hoped that qualifying this team would bring a level of respect and financial opportunity that could raise the standards and opportunities for the next generation of players in our country and change the trajectory of soccer in Canada forever,” the players wrote. “We want to work together with our organization, but the relationship has been strained for years. And now, Canada soccer has disrespected our team and jeopardized our efforts to raise the standards and effectively advance the game in Canada.”

The players wrote that they want Canada Soccer to give them about 40 per cent of the bonus received from FIFA for qualifying for the World Cup.

Canada Soccer on Saturday said the demand from the team was for 75 to 100 per cent of the World Cup prize money. Canada Soccer says it offered 60 per cent, to be split equally between the men's and women's teams.

Canada Soccer has told players it can’t afford to pay the players' demands because it doesn’t entirely control its own broadcast and sponsorship rights thanks to a long-term contract it signed in 2018 with Canadian Soccer Business, an organization that has connections to the Canadian Premier League.

“We have recently learned that in 2018, 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,” the players wrote. “To have any chance of creating substantial, lasting change for all Canada Soccer programs, we need the terms of this agreement to be disclosed and corrected. We want to know who signed this deal that has handcuffed our association. Why have Canada Soccer given up autonomy of the greatest opportunity to grow our program in years?”

The players letter says they want a review of the Canadian Soccer Business agreement, a leadership team that can generate revenue from corporate sponsorship to build the sport in Canada, and an equitable structure with the women’s national team that shares the same player match fees, percentage of prize money earned at our respective FIFA World Cups, and the development of a women’s domestic league.

The Canadian national team players are also rankled over Canada Soccer’s plans to support players’ families during the World Cup.

Canada Soccer has told players that they will receive two free tickets for each of Canada’s World Cup games, and that families and close friends will be responsible for paying their own way to Qatar and for their accommodations, sources have told TSN.

During past World Cup tournaments, some European countries have provided each player with as many as eight tickets per game, covered the cost of accommodation, and chartered flights for their families, the sources said.

The players wrote that they want “a comprehensive friends and family package for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”