Almost seven months ago, Canada Soccer confirmed that the country would be getting its own professional soccer league, the Canadian Premier League. Led by ownership groups in Hamilton, Ontario, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, the CPL will be a blend of teams linked to Canadian Football League (CFL) clubs, playing out of CFL stadiums, and combined with teams in pop-up stadiums seating a few thousand fans.
The big question, of course, is when the first ball will be kicked. It’s all gone a bit quiet since Paul Beirne (the league’s first-ever employee) promised an announcement in “60-90 days” at the beginning of October.
— James Covey FC (@ASCovey) October 6, 2017
Previously, the idea of a “soft launch” with six teams in 2018 had been suggested, followed by a full season with 8-10 teams in 2019. The idea would be to ride the bandwagon of soccer interest in the wake of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. That soft launch seems increasingly less likely as the days pass with no announcement, and with the league’s flagship team in Hamilton potentially mired in municipal politics, leaving 2019 as a more likely launch date.
Here’s a round-up of some of the latest news on the CPL.
Metro Vancouver Joins the Hunt
Metro Vancouver is the latest city to join the hunt for a CPL team. An ownership group that was previously rumored to be bringing a team to the Fraser Valley is reportedly looking at putting a team in Surrey, BC. The ownership group has reportedly submitted a proposal to the City of Surrey, including developing a soccer-specific stadium.
In possibly related news, a Vancouver-based organization called “SixFive Sports & Entertainment Inc.” has trademarked “BCFC”. British Columbia FC, anyone? Here’s hoping the CPL won’t be going the MLS route of “Generic FC” and “Generic United” for every team.
While the Canadian MLS teams aren’t going anywhere at the moment, the other remaining Canadian pro team could be on the verge of making the jump to the CPL. Ottawa Fury, currently playing the USL on a year-to-year agreement, are reportedly monitoring league developments, with the blessing of USL President Jake Edwards.
Meanwhile, FC Edmonton, who recently left the NASL and discontinued professional franchise operations, were attending CPL meetings prior to folding. Edmonton is a likely candidate city for a CPL team, although FC Edmonton co-owner Tom Fath gave a concerning interview about the state of the game in the city.
Fath’s statements raise some worrying questions about the long-term sustainability of the league in terms of the level of fan and corporate support. His comments also open the door for other ownership groups in the city.
Back in early October, Paul Beirne gave some insight into the league’s plans, including mentioning that 60-90 day timeline. Several key points were raised, such as confirmation that the CPL will be Canada’s D1, and that the league has no intention of being an MLS development league (although loan moves between the two leagues are an option.
The one that’ll please the purists, however, was confirmation that the CPL is open to having multiple divisions with promotion and relegation.
4. lastly, on what he learned from working at Brighton, and on European leagues as models pic.twitter.com/jtyqAqRddb
— James Covey FC (@ASCovey) October 6, 2017
The whole interview with Beirne is worth a read, by the way.
South of the border, the argument about promotion and relegation continues to rage—lack of pro/rel being blamed for everything from the NASL potentially folding to the USMNT missing the World Cup. Canada may be side-stepping that discussion. With a planned six to eight teams for the league’s launch, however, there is a long way to go before multiple divisions can even be considered.
Does MLS See CPL as a threat?
On October 2nd, MLS announced the opening of a Canadian office and the hiring of a general manager of MLS Canada.
Don Garber has been courting the Canadian markets more heavily than normal this year. He attended a season launch party in Vancouver. He also apparently tried to help subsidize the signing of Atiba Hutchinson as a Canadian DP and relaxed the rules on Canadian players counting as domestic players on US teams (although only for homegrowns). The timing could be a coincidence, or MLS could finally be paying attention to Canada as a reaction to the CPL threatening its dominance.
As well as Hamilton and Winnipeg, the two confirmed teams, other cities that seem likely to be awarded teams include Halifax, Moncton, and Regina. Ottawa also seems probable, although they might wait to see how the first season goes.
Other markets showing different levels of interest in the league include Surrey/Fraser Valley, Mississauga, Kitchener-Waterloo, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Victoria, Calgary, and Quebec City.
Here are some places to find more information and keep up to date on this fledgling Canadian league:
- Rumour round-up site
- Another site for news and rumours
- The CPL’s official website
- Sub-reddit for the league
As we head towards the end of that 60-90 day period, hopefully, some big announcements are on the horizon.