CPL and CEBL: The Similarities and Differences of Both Leagues

Forge FC vs York United FC at Tim Hortons Field

The CPL and CEBL are both leagues that started in 2019 in Canada. The CPL started with seven teams while the CEBL started with six teams. Both leagues did commendably well to deal with COVID-19, as both leagues have grown and have plans to grow in the future.

CPL and CEBL: Comparisons Between the Two Leagues

Similarities Between CPL and CEBL

CPL and CEBL Are Part of Continental Competitions

CPL’s Forge FC, based in Hamilton, had their fans cheering: “We are Champions League” during the game as they are the first and right now only team from the Canadian Premier League to make the Concacaf Champions League (source: Forge FC Twitter Account).

READ MORE: Rómulo Otero gives Cruz Azul the win at Tim Hortons Field

Unlike the CEBL, the CPL was part of the Concacaf League from the get-go. This means they had a pathway to make the Concacaf Champions League and face Liga MX side, Cruz Azul. Forge FC was the only team to do this. They finished in the top four of the 2021 Concacaf League, giving them a berth into the Concacaf Champions League.

The CEBL though was not part of the Basketball Champions League Americas until 2021. The first-ever entrant, the Edmonton Stingers, barely did not advance out of the group stage despite having the same record as the teams who advanced o the quarterfinals thanks to points differential.

Both Leagues Have Streaming Services

CEBL+ and OneSoccer are both streaming services used to broadcast the games. They both are services that require people to pay to watch the streaming service. However, the CEBL+ service within Canada is free so people have free access to it.

As someone who has both services, they both have pros and cons. The OneSoccer streaming service is probably more comprehensive, and it also shows games of the Canadian men’s and Canadian women’s soccer teams, which the CEBL+ service does not have for Canadian basketball.

However, the major difference is that for Canadians, OneSoccer is a much more expensive service to pay for, and this makes the CEBL+ service more accessible to everyday Canadians. Still, there are pluses and negatives and both sides, depending on how one looks at it.

Both Leagues Are Having Players Play in MLS and the NBA

Both the CEBL and the CPL are making tremendous strides in giving players a pathway to get to MLS and the NBA. When looking at the CEBL, the first player to sign an NBA contract was Javin DeLaurier, who went from the Niagara River Lions to the NBA. This is what CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale said about this accomplishment (source: CEBL):

“We are incredibly happy for Javin as he signs his contract today becoming the first CEBL player to move on to the NBA”, said Mike Morreale, CEO and commissioner, of the CEBL. “As a league, we celebrate Javin’s achievements and thank him for making our league a stop along his basketball journey. We can’t wait to tune in.”

The most notable player though was probably former Edmonton Stinger, Javier Moon, who was able to make an impact on the big stage with the Los Angeles Clippers. There are also other successes including Dartmouth’s, Nova Scotia’s very own, Lindell Wigginton, who played for the Hamilton Honey Badgers, before making the jump with the Milwaukee Bucks.

READ MORE: CPL and MLS: The growing relationship with Canadian MLS teams

As for the soccer side of things, there is also a lot of progress being made. First, there are quality players in the CPL that can make the transition to MLS. Also, there is a relationship that exists between the CPL and the three Canadian MLS teams. The 2021 CPL MVP and Brazilian, João Morelli, of the HFX Wanderers FC, said this about the quality of the players in the CPL in comparison to MLS (source: Yuri Coghe of CBC Sports):

“In 5-10 years, I think Canada will level the MLS, easily.”

This might have some truth to it, as Cavalry FC eliminated the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in 2019 and Pacific FC eliminated the Whitecaps in the 2021 Canadian Championship. There have also been players from CPL that have joined MLS, most notably Joel Waterman and Lukas MacNaughton.

Differences Between CPL and CEBL


The CEBL seemed to have made a more conscious effort to be on TSN than the CPL has. Both leagues were on CBC initially, but the CEBL was the only one that continued with CBC, and as a result, was able to get their games on TSN. This is what the CEBL founder, Richard Petko, teasing the announcement on Twitter:

“Might have some big news coming?? @CEBLeague reaching new heights.”

With the CPL, they are on Telus, but they are trying to get onto Sportsnet, which they are having difficulties with. This is the information that John Jacques of Northern Tribune has from a Sportsnet statement:

“We do not deny that the rights OneSoccer holds to [a] small number of premium games are valuable,” surmised Rogers in its response. “However, OneSoccer does not hold enough of those rights to make its service compelling to consumers over the course of an entire broadcast year, and therein lies the issue.”

It is the opinion of this writer that TSN is the one to target as they seem more open to broadcasting Canadian/North American leagues in Canada.

CEBL Had More Success With Edmonton and Toronto Than the CPL

Even though the CPL generally has better attendance than the CEBL, this is not true when looking at both Edmonton and Toronto. The Edmonton Stingers were the first team to participate in the BCL Americas and have won the CEBL championship two times, the most any CEBL team has won to date. This is while FC Edmonton, the oldest CPL team, folded late last year. There is also trouble with York United FC, who are now under the ownership of the Canadian Premier League.

Perhaps there is something to learn with the Scarborough Shooting Stars. This is what Morreale said about the Shooting Stars last year:

“(Thursday) night at one point, there were about 3,200 people in line just to buy a ticket. It was insanity,” said Morreale, the CEO of the CEBL, which tips off its fourth season on Wednesday. “I expected some buzz, I didn’t expect the landslide, but it’s great for what we’re trying to do.”

There was a lot of buzz around the Shooting Stars, who signed rapper Jermaine Cole to start the season. They also had celebrities come to the game like Chris Boucher of the Raptors. There has been no notable celebrity player from Toronto FC that has visited a York United FC game, and even if that was true, there was not a big deal made about it.

The CPL Generally Has Better Attendance

The CPL, even with the struggles of York United FC and the loss of FC Edmonton, generally has better attendance than the CEBL. For example, the HFX Wanderers FC’s president, Derek Martin said in Alex Cooke’s Global News article:

“It was always our intention to use this as a proof-of-concept, to show the public that this was, in my opinion, the best location for an outdoor sports and entertainment venue in Halifax. And I think our success to date has certainly proven that.”

In fact, in a game in 2021, Martin said that the 2021 CPL game drew “6,413” fans (source: Cooke of Global News).

Compare this to the highest-ever attended game in CEBL history, as the Vancouver Bandits drew “4,404 fans” (source: OurSportsCentral) against the then-expansion team, the Scarborough Shooting Stars, last year. When looking at the CPL attendance last year according to the transfermarkt, all the teams with the exception of York United FC and now the defunct FC Edmonton club averaged more than 3,000 fans per game.

It is not as widely known how much each CEBL’s team attendance is. However, what is known is that the Montreal Alliance had the highest attendance of all the teams in the league last year (source: Myles Dichter of CBC Sports). It was also revealed by Morreale in Paul McGaughey’s TSN article that the league averaged around “2,000 fans per game.”

What could be part of that is in the summer, the CEBL plays indoors while the CPL plays outdoors. It may not be the only reason, but after the harsh winter, people want to be out and about more than being indoors.

Future of Both Leagues

Both leagues have ambitions to grow and become the premier leagues in the country. One can say that CEBL might have the upper hand since they are on TSN, but it does seem at least in terms of attendance, that the CPL is the more popular league.

Both leagues started in the same year and one can expect cities to have teams in both markets. For example, Ottawa is in both leagues as well as Calgary, Winnipeg, and Metro Vancouver, who now have teams in both leagues this year. Yes, one can note that CEBL is in the province of Quebec and the CPL is not. One can say though that the Montreal Alliance is the city’s main basketball team as they do not have an NBA team. For soccer, a CPL Montreal Metro team will need to compete with the MLS’ CF Montreal.

Of course, the new professional women’s soccer league in Canada will be additional competition for both the CEBL and the CPL. Right now Vancouver, Calgary, and now Toronto with A.F.C. Toronto City would be in all three sports leagues as it stands.


Photo Credit: Forge Photos on November 21, 2021.