Has anyone on here been following the progress to the first season of the Canadian Premier League (CPL)?
Season starts in two months (exact date of first match is 27 April 2019).
There are currently 7 teams competing in Canada’s first ever professional league with discussions under way to increase this to 10 teams next season and 12 teams within 3 seasons. In fact the league commissioner, David Clanachan, has already announced a clear timetable for expansion. They were hoping for eight teams to start the league but Ottawa Fury decided to remain in USL for an extra season in America after talks broke down late into the negotiations. The current places mooted for expansion include: Quebec, Regina/Saskatoon, Ottawa, Moncton, Laval (across the river from Montreal), and Mississauga. It seems the league envisages that eventually it will have between 16 and 20 teams.
The League has teams from coast to coast in Canada and in many ways has very similar issues to that of the A-League here. Not the major sport in the country, large distances to travel, very concentrated populations in particular areas and a fight to secure corporate dollars. Now that the A-league has been going on for more than a decade it will be a very interesting case study to see how the Canadians fair in setting up their professional league and how successful, or not, it turns out.
I note the other week the league finally sorted out with the Canada Soccer and CONCACAF an arrangement for continental qualification. The team that finishes first in the season will qualify for the CONCACAF League (similar to the Europa League) while all clubs will participate in the ‘Canadian Championhip’ tournament for all Canadian professional clubs plus 2 semi-pro teams from feeder divisions (Quebec and Ontario’s top divisions), to decide who qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League. This will pit the CPL teams against the trio of Canadian MLS counterparts (Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Montreal Impact) and the Canadian USL counterpart (Ottawa Fury).
So the confirmed 7 teams for 2019 are:
Cavalry FC (Calgary)
FC Edmonton (Edmonton)
Forge FC (Hamilton)
HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax)
Pacific FC (Victoria Island, which is next to Vancouver)
Valour FC (Winnipeg)
York 9 FC (outskirt region around Toronto)
FC Edmonton, has been phoenixed and joined the CPL after the NASL collapsed in 2017 following US Soccer’s decision to revoke the league’s status as the second division. It is technically speaking a new club but it plays under the old banner and colours and retains the old team’s history.
All the teams will be playing out of small venues, except Valour FC who will play out of a 30,000 seat stadium in Winnipeg. All other venues are between 5,000-10,000 capacities. Most stadiums will incorporate safe standing areas and beer gardens. Teams will be offering a large number of season ticket packages with pricing varying between team to team. I had a quick look today and note the price differences between the Calgary team (Cavs) and Victoria Island (Pacific) vary a lot. Active support for Cavs is almost $300 CAD compared to sub $250 CAD for Pacific. The gulf in difference increases at the pointy end with centre field season tix for Cavs costing a whopping $1300 compared to Pacific costing $585.
The league is working on a club-based structure for participating teams rather than the franchise based structure we have in the A-League or they have in the MLS in America.
The league season runs for 28 match weeks with each team playing each other team home and away, giving fans 14 home matches and 14 away matches a season. The season runs from late April till October every year (with the season timetable expanded as more teams are added).
The CPL, unlike the A-League or MLS, will not have a finals/play-offs. However, Commissioner David Clanachan did indicate that there is something that will be unique, in North America, about the league to crown the champion but he has yet to elaborate on what that is exactly. And in something that is very similar to the A-League, the commissioner was keen to point out that the league is working on a pathway to create promotion and relegation between the CPL and either a new second division or the regional leagues in the future. I think this falls into the category of ‘it will happen one day…maybe’.
The CPL will have a salary cap, there are rules in place to give Canadian players more opportunities including a minimum number of Canadian players that must start matches (currently set to 6), a 50+1 rule for Canadian players in squads, and a limit on 7 foreign nationals per squad. The CPL is looking at total squad numbers to be between 20-23 players in the first season. The CPL also, similar to the A-League, has introduced a minimum of u21 players that must be included in the squad but have gone one step further by mandating a minimum amount of minutes those players must play each season (currently set to – at least 1,000 combined minutes). The CPL will also be able to draft in players from Canadian universities in what is essentially a loan system between the CPL clubs and universities.
The CPL has secured a global rights partner for broadcasting which is a company I have never heard of and seems a little strange since it is a Spanish company, but Mediapro secured the rights last week. Having a bit of a look at the company and it seems they are a tv broadcast producer for BeIN Sports so perhaps that is the tv and internet platform that delivers coverage for the league worldwide. I do note prior to this announcement in previous interviews, the league’s commissioner did state they were heavily looking at online streaming models to deliver content to people.
The CPL has also done a very A-League / MLS type of early life decision and have signed a league wide kit supplier deal with Macron. Now we started with this in the A-League but eventually moved away from this kind of arrangement in favour of clubs signing their own deals with their own suppliers. MLS has maintained the one kit supplier for the whole league. It will be interesting to see how long this lasts for the CPL.
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