By Jonathan Lewis | 24th SEP 20
Football, or Soccer as it is known in North America, has been played in Canada since the mid-19th century. But for too long, Canadian teams have not enjoyed the same sorts of big-league tournaments seen in other countries. Canadian teams play in the USA’s United Soccer League and Major League Soccer. But they were not even a part of Major League Soccer until the 21st century. Toronto FC was the first Canadian club to participate in MLS, and that did not happen until 2007. Vancouver and Montreal then joined the MLS in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
However, between 1987 and 1992, Canadian clubs were able to compete in the professional nationwide Canadian Soccer League. But since the demise of that league, there was no entirely professional first division league in Canadian football until last year. Finally, in 2019, the Canadian Premier League was born.
On May 6th, 2017, the creation of the Canadian Premier League was approved and sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association. The league originally had a soft launch date of 2018, but it was later pushed back until 2019. The intention of the league was to improve the national talent of Canadian footballers and the sport of Canada. Several rules were put in place to ensure those improvements, including a minimum quota of Canadian players on rosters and starting line-ups, and requirements for domestic players under 21 years of age.
Seven clubs competed in the first Canadian Premier League, and only one was an already-existing team. Other than FC Edmonton, the six newly-formed teams were Cavalry FC, Pacific FC, Forge FC, HFX Wanderers, York9 FC, and Valour FC. With so many new teams, it was challenging for fans and pundits to call who the winner would be but that did not stop lots of online betting from happening.
The first season of the Canadian Premier League got underway in 2019. It started on April 27th and finished on October 19th. The season used a split-season format, similar to the format used by football leagues in Latin America. The first game of the Canadian Premier League was on April 27th, between the teams York9 and Forge FC. The game concluded in a draw of 1-1. The finals of the CPL were contested between the Spring and Fall champions Cavalry FC, and the runners-up Forge FC. The underdogs came out on top. Forge FC won the first Canadian Premier League title, beating Cavalry 2-0.
For the 2020 season, an eighth club joined the CPL: Atlético Ottawa. It was also decided that the league would move to a single season format, with a balanced schedule and extended playoffs. Each team would play 28 games. 14 would be at home, and 14 would be away. The first overall team would then qualify for the CPL Finals, while the second and third teams would battle it out to qualify for the final. However, like many other sporting leagues around the world, the 2020 CPL has been put on hold due to the global coronavirus pandemic. So, although the dream of a league that Canadian fans and players could call their own has finally come into being, you will have to wait a little longer to find out which teams will dominate the upcoming season of the Canadian Premier League.
Jonathan Lewis is an MFF Sports Writer