Canadian Premier League
|Founded||May 6, 2017|
(North American Football Union)
|Number of teams||8|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Domestic cup(s)||Canadian Championship|
|International cup(s)||CONCACAF League|
|Current champions||Forge FC (2nd title) |
|Most championships||Forge FC (2 titles)|
|Most appearances||Daniel Krutzen (39)|
|TV partners||CBC, CHCH, OneSoccer|
|Current: 2021 Canadian Premier League season|
The Canadian Premier League (CPL or CanPL; French: Première ligue canadienne) is a professional soccer league in Canada. At the top of the Canadian soccer league system, it is the country's primary national soccer league competition. The league consists of eight teams, from five of Canada's ten provinces. The regular league season lasts from April to October, with each team playing 28 games. The season culminates in the CPL Finals. The CPL champion earns a berth in the CONCACAF League, playing against teams from Central America and the Caribbean. All CPL teams also play in the Canadian Championship against Canadian clubs from other leagues. Qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League is available to CPL clubs through either the Canadian Championship or CONCACAF League.
The league was officially sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association on May 6, 2017, originally with a soft launch date of 2018, that was later pushed back to 2019. The league's focus is to improve national soccer talent and the sport in Canada, with several rules in place to ensure this. These include a minimum quota of Canadian players on team rosters and starting line-ups, requirements for domestic under-21 players, and a university draft.
The league's first season included seven teams, while an eighth, Atlético Ottawa, joined for the second season in 2020. The CPL is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, with plans for a second office in Hamilton, Ontario.
Since the closure of the original Canadian Soccer League in 1992, there was no fully professional first division league in Canadian soccer. The only national Canadian competition was the Canadian Championship, a domestic cup which has been played since 2008. Canadian teams played in American leagues, such as Major League Soccer, NASL and the USL Championship, while the L1O and PLSQ were created as provincial-level leagues. A new version of the Canadian Soccer League was briefly sanctioned as a third-division semi-pro league by the CSA from 2010 to 2013, losing the sanction after the CSA board of directors adopted a new soccer structure in Canada. Prior to being de-sanctioned, the Canadian Soccer League had been involved in a match-fixing scandal and a majority of the teams reportedly did not meet CSA requirements in the 2012 season.
A new fully professional Canadian soccer league was first publicly reported in June 2013. The reports suggested that Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young was part of a core group of investors working with the Canadian Soccer Association and its president Victor Montagliani to create a new set of fully professional teams or a league in Canada. The Tiger-Cats ownership group was granted exclusive rights by the Canadian Soccer Association until 2017 to establish a team that would play in the under-construction Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.
In February 2016, reports of the league emerged again when Young spoke to Hamilton City Council requesting permission to erect an air-dome over the Tim Hortons Field playing surface between December 1 and April 30 yearly to allow for year-round training for a professional soccer team owned by the Tiger-Cats that would call the stadium home. During questions by the elected council members, it was revealed that the name of the league would be the Canadian Premier League and that the Hamilton team was expected to be the flagship franchise. Further details were expected following the Canadian Soccer Association's annual meeting in May 2016.
In a March 2016 interview, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber indicated that, from his understanding, the league would be a "lower division" of the Canadian soccer league system but he had not discussed the matter with his Canadian counterparts. Reports in June indicated that the Canadian Premier League would avoid current Major League Soccer markets.
On November 14, the first official employee of the Canadian Premier League was announced. Paul Beirne, a Canadian who was also the first employee of Toronto FC, was hired as project manager for the new league. Beirne would leave his role with the league in October 2019.
On April 27, 2018, the Canadian Premier League unveiled its logo and branding. The three colours of the logo – pitch green, sky navy and ocean blue – signified the "cultural mosaic as seen through the colours in the Northern Lights." A red version is used on Canada Day and when teams play in events like the CONCACAF Champions League and the Canadian Championship.
Two days later, Beirne announced that inaugural teams would be revealed on an almost-weekly basis. On May 5, the Canadian Soccer Association accepted club memberships for Halifax, York Region, Calgary, and "Port City" (an undisclosed location in British Columbia), confirming their acceptance into the league. It was confirmed on June 1 that the Port City ownership group's team would be based in Vancouver Island, ending speculation that the team would be located in Surrey in the Lower Mainland.
The unveiling of the first team, York9 FC, took place on May 10, with co-owners Jim Brennan and Preben Ganzhorn joined by Beirne and Clanachan. This was followed by Calgary-based Cavalry FC on May 17, 2018, Halifax's HFX Wanderers FC on May 25, Valour FC in Winnipeg on June 6, and the rebranded former NASL side FC Edmonton on June 8. After a break from announcements to accommodate the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Hamilton's Forge FC was next unveiled on July 12, followed by Pacific FC of Langford on Vancouver Island on July 20.
The inaugural match of the Canadian Premier League between Forge FC and York9 FC took place at Tim Hortons Field on April 27, 2019, and resulted in a 1–1 draw. Ryan Telfer of York9 FC scored the first goal in Canadian Premier League history in the third minute of the inaugural match.
In advance of the 2019 Finals, the league's trophy was unveiled. The North Star Shield is a crystal shield engraved with the logo of the Canadian Premier League. The inaugural season finished on November 2, 2019, when Forge FC became the first Canadian Premier League Champions, defeating Cavalry FC 2–0 over two legs in the Finals. Forge midfielder Tristan Borges was named the first CPL Player of the Year.
On January 29, 2020, Atlético Ottawa was confirmed to be the first CPL expansion team, joining for the 2020 season. The 2020 season, set to start on April 11, was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 29, it was announced that the entire 2020 season would be played in Charlottetown beginning August 13. The shortened 2020 season, known as "The Island Games" ended on September 19 when Forge FC won their second Canadian Premier League title in a 2–0 victory over HFX Wanderers.
With the addition of an eighth club in 2020, the league moved to a single season format with a balanced schedule and expanded playoffs. The Canadian Premier League regular season runs from April to October. Each team plays 28 games, including 14 at home and 14 away games. The first overall team qualifies directly for the CPL Finals, while the second and third teams in the standings play in a single-game playoff to qualify.
Other competitions featuring CPL clubs
Canadian Premier League teams also compete in the Canadian Championship against Canadian teams in Major League Soccer and Tier 3 league champions for Canada's spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. The two-legged knockout format guarantees each team one home and one away match in the tournament. In the 2019 edition, CPL teams entered in the first and second qualifying rounds.
The CPL champion qualifies for the CONCACAF League and competes against teams from Central America and the Caribbean for one of six spots in the CONCACAF Champions League. As part of the expanded format begun in 2019, the CPL club enters the tournament in the preliminary round, played in July. For the 2019 edition only, this slot was granted to one of the league's 'inaugural teams' (FC Edmonton, Forge FC, or Valour FC) based on their home and away matches in the 2019 spring season.
Eight clubs compete in the Canadian Premier League, seven of whom competed in the inaugural season. Only FC Edmonton predated the CPL, having been members of the North American Soccer League, and also having competed in the Canadian Championship seven times before joining the league. In 2020, the league expanded to eight teams with the addition of Atlético Ottawa.
The province of Ontario has three teams, Alberta has two, while British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia each have one. There are two pairs of rivalries between teams in the same province: the Al Classico between Cavalry FC and FC Edmonton, deriving its nickname from the Spanish El Clásico, and the 905 Derby between Forge FC and York United FC, named after the area code shared by both teams.
Matches between Pacific FC and HFX Wanderers FC require the third-longest away trips of any domestic professional soccer league in the world, with the two teams separated by 4,476 kilometres (2,781 mi). The 905 Derby, between Forge FC and York United FC, is the shortest distance between two clubs at 70 kilometres (43 mi).
|Team||Location||Stadium||Capacity||Founded||First season||Head coach|
|Canadian Premier League|
|Atlético Ottawa||Ottawa, Ontario||TD Place Stadium||24,000||2020||Mista|
|Cavalry FC||Foothills County, Alberta[a]||ATCO Field||5,288||2018||2019||Tommy Wheeldon Jr.|
|FC Edmonton||Edmonton, Alberta||Clarke Stadium||5,100||2010||2019||Alan Koch|
|Forge FC||Hamilton, Ontario||Tim Hortons Field||10,016[b]||2017||2019||Bobby Smyrniotis|
|HFX Wanderers FC||Halifax, Nova Scotia||Wanderers Grounds||6,200||2018||2019||Stephen Hart|
|Pacific FC||Langford, British Columbia[c]||Westhills Stadium||6,200||2018||2019||Pa-Modou Kah|
|Valour FC||Winnipeg, Manitoba||IG Field||10,000[d]||2017||2019||Rob Gale|
|York United FC||Toronto, Ontario||York Lions Stadium||8,000||2018||2019||Jimmy Brennan|
- ATCO Field is located within the Spruce Meadows equestrian complex, just outside the Calgary city limits.
- Tim Hortons Field has a normal capacity of 23,218 but is limited to 10,016 for Forge FC games.
- Langford is located within the Greater Victoria area.
- IG Field has a normal capacity of 33,234 but is limited to 10,000 for Valour FC games.
CPL commissioner David Clanachan has, on numerous occasions, confirmed the league's plans to expand gradually up to 16 clubs in 2026. Clanachan has also stated that the biggest issue for potential expansion teams is a lack of facilities. Clanachan mentioned that the league is looking at regions and owners in St. John's, Moncton, Laval, Quebec City, Kitchener-Waterloo, the Niagara Region, the Durham Region, Mississauga, Regina, Saskatoon, and Kelowna as well as the Fraser Valley area of British Columbia. Other areas with CPL interest include Barrie, Montreal, and Saint John. 
It had been speculated that then-existing USL Championship side Ottawa Fury FC would join the league for its 2019 or 2020 season; speculation fuelled by the Fury's acquisitions of Canadian players prior to the 2018 season. While the club remained in the USL for 2019, two of the three governing bodies of the USL (United States Soccer Federation and CONCACAF) refused to sanction the Canadian club to continue play in the US league, and the club ceased operations in November 2019.
In January 2020, there had been many reports of an Ottawa-based team owned by Atlético Madrid being formed for the 2020 season. These reports were later confirmed when the CPL announced Atlético Ottawa as the league's first expansion team on January 29, 2020.
|Team||Titles||Runners-up||Seasons won||Seasons runner-up|
|Forge FC||2||0||2019, 2020||–|
|HFX Wanderers FC||0||1||–||2020|
In April 2018, commissioner David Clanachan said that the league was looking at implementing a club-based structure for the Canadian Premier League, rather than a franchise-based system like in Major League Soccer.
On January 10, 2018, David Clanachan, former president and chief operating officer of Tim Hortons, was named as the first commissioner of the league. On January 24, he announced that Paul Beirne had been named president. Having already worked with the league for over a year, Beirne took on the role of managing the day-to-day league operations. On January 31, the Canadian Premier League named James Easton, a former Canadian international, as vice-president of Soccer Operations. On September 19, 2019, Clanachan announced that Beirne would step down as president of the CPL at the end of the 2019 season in October.
The league also has several other rules to give Canadian players more opportunities. This includes a minimum of six Canadian starters per game and a limit of seven foreign nationals per team. Additionally, three of the domestic players must be under the age of 21 and play at least 1,000 combined minutes per season. Rosters are limited to a size of 23 players. Given the limit, most teams opt to carry only two goalkeepers, however, teams may sign an emergency goalkeeper, who does not count to the roster limit, when necessary.
On August 27, 2018, the CPL announced that it would hold a series of open tryouts in eight cities across Canada for players 16 and older. The tryouts were led by Alex Bunbury and took place in front of CPL coaching staff from all teams.
On October 17, 2018, the CPL and U Sports announced that it would hold an annual draft for university players. Drafted student-athletes are able to play for CPL teams in the spring and summer, and return to their university team by August 15, thereby preserving their eligibility. The first CPL–U Sports Draft took place in Vancouver on November 12, 2018, after the conclusion of the U Sports men's soccer championship.
The Canadian Premier League has used a mix of existing, built for purpose, and upgraded stadiums, many of which are shared with other teams. IG Field (Valour FC), TD Place Stadium (Atlético Ottawa), and Tim Hortons Field (Forge FC) are existing Canadian Football League stadiums, and have the largest capacities in the CPL. York Lions Stadium (York United FC) and Westhills Stadium (Pacific FC) are both pre-existing stadiums that were upgraded in capacity before the 2019 season. Spruce Meadows (ATCO Field) (Cavalry FC) and Wanderers Grounds (HFX Wanderers FC) were new stadiums in 2019, built in pre-existing venues. FC Edmonton continues to use Clarke Stadium.
On February 20, 2019, it was announced that Mediapro had acquired the broadcast rights to the league. A streaming service established in 2019, OneSoccer, carries all of the league's matches, including the Canadian Championship. Twenty games throughout the inaugural season were also available through CBC Sports, ten of which were on broadcast television, and all 20 on CBC Gem and the CBC website.
CBC extended the deal with two games every Saturday during the league's second season, while CHCH also picked-up the rights for one game every Sunday. In August 2020, Fox Sports became the CPL's first American broadcast partner. The season was also aired by StarTimes in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1Sports in the Indian subcontinent, and Premier Football in the Philippines. The group stage and Final were broadcast in Latin America by DirecTV Go and Tigo Sports.
|Latin America||DirecTV Go|
|United States||Fox Sports|
Records and statistics
At the conclusion of each season, the league presents the following awards:
- Golden Boot
- Golden Glove
- Coach of the Year
- Player of the Year
- Best Under 21 Canadian Player of the Year
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You're going to have eight teams, eight coaches watching...
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