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TSN Senior Correspondent

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Canada’s national men’s soccer team stayed off the pitch on Friday, refusing to train for Sunday’s World Cup warmup against Panama because of a dispute over player compensation, according to sources familiar with the matter.

It’s unclear whether players will appear at a scheduled training session on Saturday at UBC. It's also unclear if players have threatened not to play in Sunday’s game at BC Place in Vancouver, which was scheduled after Canada Soccer cancelled a friendly match against Iran because of political pressure. The team is also scheduled to face Curacao at BC Place on June 9.

Players have been at odds with Canada Soccer executives for months after the national organization offered a new contract to the team, the sources said. The contract offer was tabled to players in April.

The proposed contract includes a tentative payment structure for qualifying for this year’s World Cup tournament in Qatar and includes set bonuses that depend on how far Canada advances in the event. 

The winner of this year’s World Cup will receive $42 million (U.S.) of FIFA’s $440 million total prize money. 

It’s unclear how much money teams will make for qualifying for the tournament, which begins Nov. 21, but Canada Soccer is believed to be poised to receive more than $10 million from FIFA, sources familiar with the matter said.

Canada Soccer has proposed that men’s national team players would receive about 10 per cent of that $10 million payment, with the balance going to fund items including the organization’s administration costs, a proposed national training centre in Vaughan, Ont., and grassroots soccer initiatives, the sources said, adding that the men’s national team players have asked for about 40 per cent of the World Cup bonus to be split between 33 players.

Canada Soccer disputed those figures early Saturday night, saying 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.

“At no time has Canada Soccer presented a proposal for 10 per cent of the FIFA World Cup prize money,” Canada Soccer said. “Nor, has the Association received a proposal from the Men's National Team for 40 per cent of the prize money. To be clear, the Men's National Team demand was for 75-100 per cent of the World Cup prize money. The Association, in an effort to adhere to the principle of pay equity, proposed 60 per cent of the FIFA World Cup prize money to be split between the two National Teams (i.e., 30 per cent + 30 per cent to the players of each team) and 40 per cent for the Association. The Association believes that this proposal follows the principles of fairness and equity.”

Canadian national team players and their agents have been in contact with members of the U.S. men’s national team, which recently agreed to a new contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation that will see the men’s and women’s teams be paid at the same rate for game appearances and tournament victories.

The new U.S. contracts include an unprecedented redistribution of the millions of dollars in World Cup prize money the men’s and women’s teams can earn by playing in the tournament and also contain new revenue-sharing agreements that may see the players receive millions more from their cut of U.S. Soccer’s commercial revenues each year.

U.S. national team players will now be paid $24,000 apiece for winning a World Cup qualifying match, bonuses for promotional appearances, and a portion of each ticket sold, in addition to benefits including child care (for both men’s and women’s team players) and matching payments for 401(k) retirement plans.

Canada Soccer has told players it cannot afford similar deals 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.

Some Canadian men’s national team players are also rankled over Canada Soccer’s plans to support players’ families during the World Cup, the sources said. 

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, the sources said. 

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.