Canadian Premier League

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Canadian Premier League
Canadian Premier League Logo.png
FoundedMay 6, 2017; 2 years ago (2017-05-06)
First season2019
(North American Football Union)
Number of teams7
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)Canadian Championship
International cup(s)CONCACAF League
Current championsForge FC (1st title)
Most championshipsForge FC (1 title)
Top goalscorerTristan Borges (12 goals)
TV partnersCBC, OneSoccer
2020 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 seven teams, from five of Canada's ten provinces.[1] The regular league season lasts from April to October and consists of two separate tournaments: the spring season and the fall season. The season culminates in the CPL Championship, held between the two season winners. 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.

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 Canadian Premier League uses a club-based system, unlike the franchise-based system used in Major League Soccer and other North American sports leagues.[2] It is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario with plans for a second office in Hamilton, Ontario.[3]


Tim Hortons Field, home to Forge FC of Hamilton

Since the closure of the original Canadian Soccer League in 1992, there was no fully professional first division league in Canadian Soccer.[4] Canadian teams played in American leagues, such as Major League Soccer (Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Montreal Impact), NASL (FC Edmonton) or the USL Championship (Ottawa Fury FC) and USL League Two, while the L1O and PLSQ were created as provincial-level leagues. A new version of the Canadian Soccer League was briefly sanctioned by the CSA from 2010 to 2013, losing the sanction after being unable and unwilling to address corruption and match-fixing inside the league.[5] The only national Canadian competition was the Canadian Championship.

A new fully professional Canadian soccer league was first publicly reported in June 2013.[6] 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.[7]

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.[6] 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.[6]

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.[8] Reports in June indicated that the Canadian Premier League would avoid current Major League Soccer markets.[9]

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.[10] Beirne would leave his role with the league in October 2019.[11]

On May 6, 2017, the creation of the league was unanimously approved and sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association.[12] Ownership groups in Winnipeg and Hamilton were also approved.[13]

On April 27, 2018, the Canadian Premier League unveiled its logo and branding.[14] 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."[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18][19]

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.[20][21] This was followed by Calgary-based Cavalry FC on May 17, 2018,[22][23] Halifax's HFX Wanderers FC on May 25,[24][25] Valour FC in Winnipeg on June 6,[26][27] and the rebranded former NASL side FC Edmonton on June 8.[28][29] After a break from announcements to accommodate the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Hamilton's Forge FC was next unveiled on July 12,[30] followed by Pacific FC of Langford on Vancouver Island on July 20.[31]

On September 28, 2018, Italian sportswear company Macron was announced as the official apparel supplier of the CPL. Macron will supply training gear and custom made kits for each CPL team.[32][33]

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 York 9 FC scored the first goal in Canadian Premier League history in the third minute of the inaugural match.[34]

Competition format[edit]

The Canadian Premier League season runs from late April to October. Each team plays 28 games, including 14 at home and 14 away games. The inaugural season of the league includes a split season format similar to soccer leagues in Latin America. The winners of the two seasons compete in the two-legged CPL Finals.[35][36]

On multiple occasions, league commissioner David Clanachan stated his goal of having promotion and relegation in the Canadian soccer league system as more teams join the league.[37][38][2][39]

Other competitions[edit]

Canadian Premier League teams also compete in the Canadian Championship against Canadian teams in Major League Soccer, the USL Championship, 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 will enter in the first and second qualifying rounds.[40]

One Canadian Premier League team will compete annually in the expanded CONCACAF League 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 will enter the tournament in the preliminary round, to be played in July.[41] For only the 2019 edition, 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.[42] For all future editions, the CPL champion will qualify for the following year's CONCACAF League.


Seven clubs competed in the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier League. 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. The remaining six teams were founded to compete in the league.[43]

Alberta and Ontario have two teams each from their provinces, while British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia each have one. Both pairs of teams in the same province have rivalry series: the Al Classico between Cavalry FC and FC Edmonton, deriving its nickname from the Spanish El Clásico,[44] and the 905 Derby between Forge FC and York9 FC, named after the area code shared by both teams.[45]

Matches between Pacific FC and HFX Wanderers FC require the third-longest road trips of any domestic professional soccer league in the world, with the two teams separated by 4,476 kilometres (2,781 mi).[45][46] The 905 Derby, between Forge FC and York9 FC, is the shortest distance between two clubs at 70 kilometres (43 mi).[47]

The teams follow a club-based system similar to European leagues in which the clubs are independent members of the league, rather than franchises as seen in Major League Soccer and other North American sports leagues.[citation needed]

Team Location Stadium Capacity Founded First season Head coach
Canadian Premier League
Cavalry FC Foothills County, Alberta ATCO Field 5,288 2018 2019 Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
FC Edmonton Edmonton, Alberta Clarke Stadium 5,100 2010 2019 Jeff Paulus
Forge FC Hamilton, Ontario Tim Hortons Field 10,016[a] 2017 2019 Bobby Smyrniotis
HFX Wanderers FC Halifax, Nova Scotia Wanderers Grounds 6,200 2018 2019 Stephen Hart
Pacific FC Langford, British Columbia Westhills Stadium 6,200 2018 2019 James Merriman (interim)
Valour FC Winnipeg, Manitoba IG Field 33,234 2017 2019 Rob Gale
York9 FC Toronto, Ontario York Lions Stadium 8,000 2018 2019 Jimmy Brennan
  1. ^ Tim Hortons Field has a normal capacity of 23,218 but is limited to 10,016 for Forge FC games.[48]

Potential expansion[edit]

In 2017, Soccer New Brunswick expressed interest in bringing a professional team to Moncton by 2020.[49] A Saskatchewan-based ownership group is planning a team in either Regina or Saskatoon.[50] There have been rumours of a team in Quebec City or Sherbrooke.[51][52] The city of Mississauga, Ontario, has been approached by the league about a stadium for a possible team.[53]

It had been rumoured that the then-existing USL Championship side Ottawa Fury FC would join the league in 2019;[54][55] speculation fueled by the Fury's acquisitions of Canadian players prior to the 2018 season.[56] However, on September 5, the club announced it would remain in USL.[57] Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group CEO Mark Goudie said the club would not rule out joining the league at a later date and that discussions would continue.[58] On November 8, 2019, the Fury suspended operations after being denied sanctioning by CONCACAF and the United States Soccer Federation ahead of the 2020 USL season.[59]

After Ottawa's decision not to join the CPL, league commissioner David Clanachan mentioned that the league is looking at regions and owners in St. John's, Moncton, Laval, Quebec City, Ontario's Tri-Cities, the Niagara Region, the Durham Region, Mississauga, Regina, Saskatoon, and Kelowna. He indicated that while the league was working towards an eighth team for 2019, they are prepared to start with seven teams.[60]

On November 5, 2018, Clanachan confirmed the league's plans to expand gradually citing 10 clubs by 2020, followed by 14 clubs in 2024 and 16 clubs in 2026. Clanachan also stated, in regards to the 2020 expansion, that "we're really working hard with 5–6 locations right now for three additional spots by 2020" mentioning that the biggest issue is a lack of facilities.[61]

League champions[edit]

Team North Star Shields Year(s) won Split season titles Season(s) won Total combined CPL seasons
Forge FC 1 2019 0 1 1
Cavalry FC 0 2 Spring 2019, Fall 2019 2 1



In April 2018, commissioner David Clanachan said that the league is looking at implementing a club-based structure for the Canadian Premier League, rather than a franchise-based system like in Major League Soccer.[62]

League executives[edit]

On January 10, 2018, David Clanachan, former president and chief operating officer of Tim Hortons, was named as the first commissioner of the league.[63] 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.[64] On January 31, the Canadian Premier League named James Easton, a former Canadian international, as vice-president of Soccer Operations.[65] On September 19, 2019, Clanachan announced that Beirne will step down as president of the CPL at the end of the 2019 season in October.[11]


The Canadian Premier League uses a salary cap. The exact figure has not been confirmed by the league.[66]

The league also has several other rules to give Canadian players more opportunities. This includes a minimum of six Canadian starters per game, a requirement that 50% +1 of players on team rosters must be Canadian, 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.[37][45]

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.[67][68]

On October 17, 2018, the CPL and U Sports announced that it would hold an annual draft for university players. Drafted student-athletes will be able to play for CPL teams in the spring and summer, and return to their university team on 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.[69]


IG Field, home to Valour FC of Winnipeg, is the largest stadium in the Canadian Premier League

The Canadian Premier League uses a mix of existing, new for 2019, and upgraded stadiums, many of which are shared with other teams. Tim Hortons Field (Forge FC) and IG Field (Valour FC) are existing Canadian Football League stadiums, and have the largest capacities in the CPL. York Lions Stadium (York9 FC) and Westhills Stadium (Pacific FC) are both pre-existing stadiums that were upgraded in capacity before the 2019 season, and are shared with rugby union teams.[70] Spruce Meadows (ATCO Field) (Cavalry FC) and Wanderers Grounds (HFX Wanderers FC) were new stadiums built in pre-existing venues. FC Edmonton continues to use Clarke Stadium.

York9 FC have announced plans to build a modular, wooden, 15,000 seat stadium in York Region, within the next three years.[71]

Broadcast rights[edit]

On February 20, 2019, it was announced that Mediapro had acquired the broadcast rights to the league.[72] A streaming service established in 2019, OneSoccer, carries all of the league's matches, including the Canadian Championship.[73][74] 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.[75][76]


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

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]