The Canadian Premier League: A Year in Review

CPL

Editorial — With the notable exceptions of USL’s Ottawa Fury FC and MASL’s MetroStars Canada folding, 2019 has been a banner year in Canadian men’s club soccer. This is especially true with the formation of the new Canadian Premier League.

Six new teams — in addition to former NASL side FC Edmonton — were created in the new CPL from coast to coast. Cities like Winnipeg and Halifax, which may have never got a chance to get a pro soccer team in MLS, earned CPL clubs.

The CPL has a lot of rich backers behind the league. Examples include Spruce Meadows Sports Entertainment with Cavalry FC (Calgary), Hamilton Tiger-Cats with Forge FC (Hamilton) and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with Valour FC (Winnipeg).

The other teams in the Canadian Premier League included Pacific FC (Victoria), FC Edmonton, Cavalry FC (Calgary), York9 FC (Greater Toronto Area) and HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax).

The CPL Officially Launches on April 15

The CPL kits were officially revealed on April 15, kicking off the action.

The first-ever game took place at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario. Here, the first ever 905 derby took place between Forge FC and York9 FC. Ryan Telfer scored the first goal in Canadian Premier League history for York9 FC.

Kadell Thomas answered with a goal of his own scoring Forge FC’s first ever goal. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.

The First Ever Goals of all the CPL Teams

Hendrik Starostzik scored the first ever goal for Pacific FC in Victoria at Westhills Stadium against the HFX Wanderers FC on April 28. They ended up winning that game 1-0.

However, Pacific FC gave up two goals in Victoria against Valour FC. Stephen Hoyle of Valour FC became the first ever goal scorer for the CPL.

The next team to score a goal was Akeem Garcia of HFX Wanderers FC in their first home game. He scored the first goal in HFX Wanderers FC history. Forge FC answered back but Luis Alberto Perea responded in the 82nd minute to give Wanderers the win.

Cavalry FC scored their first ever CPL goal against York9 FC on May 4. Jordan Brown scored Cavalry FC’s first ever CPL goal, leading to a 2-1 win for the home side at Spruce Meadows.

Lastly, FC Edmonton scored their ever-Canadian Premier League goal at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg on May 4 with Mélé Temguia scoring. FC Edmonton won 1-2 against Valour FC in opposing territory.

Unlike the other teams, FC Edmonton was created almost a decade earlier in 2010. However, they had to be resurrected thanks to fans support with the #YEG4CPL campaign. The attendance for the most part was good as most teams were either pulling their weight or doing reasonably way in terms of attendance.

Canadian Premier League Attendance

According to John Jacques of the Northern Tribune, the three teams that pulled away with the highest attendances are Hamilton, Halifax and Winnipeg.

Hamilton and Winnipeg are not big surprises, as they have CFL teams backing the clubs. Forge FC (Hamilton) leads CPL attendance with 6,588 fans per game. Meanwhile, Winnipeg is third with 5,355 fans per game. Halifax has been the biggest surprise. Despite finishing last in the CPL, they are second with 6,055 fans per game.

The fourth and fifth place teams are Cavalry FC (Calgary) with 3,291 fans and Pacific FC with 3,106 fans per game. These teams are doing alright in attendance and expect them to increase in the subsequent years.

The two franchises that are struggling with attendance include FC Edmonton, who saw an average of 2,904 fans per match. Meanwhile, York9 FC is last with an average of 2,723 fans per game.

FC Edmonton is the only franchise where there might be some concern. Their attendance dropped from their last NASL season of 3,408 in 2017. However, saying that, FC Edmonton is perfectly capable of drawing more than 3,000 fans per game. Expect an attendance increase for FC Edmonton next season.

Another story by John Jacques of the Northern Tribune reveals that York9 FC will sell cheaper tickets for next season. This will include extra fan items and a one year subscription to OneSoccer.

OneSoccer is CPL’s answer for all Canadian soccer fans. They broadcast leagues like Liga MX and the CPL along with the Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Teams.

TV Rights

OneSoccer

OneSoccer is a paid online subscription service that allows fans to watch their CPL teams and local clubs beyond the big three MLS teams.

The most memorable games broadcasted on OneSoccer this year was Canada winning at BMO Field against USA in the CONCACAF Nations League and Cavalry FC knocking off MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

It was also incredibly surprising to see a first year CPL side like Cavalry FC defeat Vancouver in a two-leg series.

Then there was the first CPL game played at Tim Hortons Field and the two-leg final between Cavalry FC and Forge FC. The latter two were shown on OneSoccer and CBC.

CBC

CBC Sports have already invested heavily into the CPL in their first season. Ten games were broadcasted on CBC TV channel while all 20 games were live-streamed on CBC Gem, CBCSports.ca and CBC Sports app.

One of games televised on television was Forge FC vs. York9 FC. If people are not interested in buying OneSoccer they can just watch CBC either on television or on their laptops and phones.

Canadian Premier League Level

Cavalry FC and Forge FC

This year the two best teams were Forge FC and Cavalry FC. All the other CPL teams were a notch or two below them. Part of the reason was Forge FC and Cavalry FC came from amateur teams or academies. In Forge FC’s case, the coach and a lot of their players came from Sigma FC. Sigma FC currently plays in the third tier of Canadian soccer called League1 Ontario.

For example, Jacques of The Northern Tribune revealed that Justin Stoddart and Oluwaseun Oyegunle from Sigma FC to Forge FC. A well-renowned youth soccer development academy for producing players like Kyle Bekker, who played in MLS and is currently Forge FC’s captain.

Similarly, with Cavalry FC’s case they have the Calgary Foothills, who recently won in the fourth-tier American soccer league USL League 2 last year. According to Marty Thompson, Digital Content Editor of the CPL stated that Cavalry FC’s own Marco Carducci, who used to play for the Calgary Foothills was the first CPL player to be called up to the Canadian Men’s National Team.

Canadian Premier League Finals

Forge FC and Cavalry FC met at the CPL Finals as the two best teams in the league. Forge FC defeated Cavalry FC on a 2-0 aggregate to win CPL’s first ever title.

The format was a 10-game spring season followed by a 18-game fall table season. The winner of both the Fall and Spring Season would face each other in the final. However, since Cavalry FC won both seasons, Forge FC became the other finalist based on points.

Forge FC would end up winning the CPL and earning the North Star Shield as they were the better team in the two-legged final against Cavalry FC. John Molinaro of Sportsnet describes the CPL’s format following the South American soccer model of two split seasons and a two-legged final to finish of the season. They also hope at some point to promote promotion and relegation models seen through most of the world.

More importantly, the surprising thing about the CPL teams is how well they fared internationally in CONCACAF.

Canadian Premier League in CONCACAF

Forge FC faced their first ever central American opponent in Antigua GFC and won with a 2-1 aggregate. They also shocked Olimpia by winning the first leg at Tim Hortons Field. However, Forge FC’s CONCACAF League run ended with a 4-1 at Honduras.

This is what Nik Ledgerwood said about the game at BC Place according to J.J. Adams of The Province:

“We talked out in the locker room that if we could come out strong in the first 10 minutes, that might change the atmosphere of the crowd. It wasn’t the loudest I’ve heard B.C. Place before, and that’s something you notice as a player … with the home crowd almost going against the home team at times.”

York9 FC were also close to this feat as they almost eliminated MLS side Montreal Impact from the Canadian Championship. The Impact would defeat Cavalry FC and MLS side Toronto FC to win the Canadian Championship.

CPL in Ten Years Time

It is hard to tell, but the CPL hopes to have 16 teams by the time Canada co-hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2026.

The quality of play will also dramatically improve and become increasingly competitive as the years go by. The other teams will start to gel and eventually close the gap between them and the top two teams in the CPL being Cavalry FC and Forge FC.

Furthermore, the level of play in the CPL will be completely different in 10 years. Less players are going to be adjusting to playing in a professional environment and the level of play is likely to dramatically increase. It may one day rival or even surpass MLS on the world stage, based off what happened with Cavalry FC and York9 FC.

It is important to remember that MLS now is completely different than their first ever season. Jonathan Kraft of the Associated Press talks a bit about that fact.

“When Don first became commissioner and when we went through those dark days, there was always the question of: Is the league going to survive? I don’t think that’s remotely a question today,” Jonathan Kraft told the Associated Press. “So that’s a huge jump in a very short period of time.”


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