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P.E.I. gears up to host CPL tournament amid COVID-19

Ali Musse of Valour FC (left) and Joel Waterman of Cavalry FC vie for the ball during CPL action in Calgary, May 8, 2019. It looks like Prince Edward Island will lead the way in Canada's return to soccer, with the Canadian Premier League possibly looking to finally kick off its season in Charlottetown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CPL-Mike Sturk MANDATORY CREDIT.
Ali Musse of Valour FC (left) and Joel Waterman of Cavalry FC vie for the ball during CPL action in Calgary, May 8, 2019. It looks like Prince Edward Island will lead the way in Canada's return to soccer, with the Canadian Premier League possibly looking to finally kick off its season in Charlottetown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CPL-Mike Sturk MANDATORY CREDIT.

Professional soccer is coming to Prince Edward Island as the island sets to host a shortened season of the Canadian Premier League starting Aug. 13.

The University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) artificial turf field will host the 35-game season as eight teams from across the country descend on Charlottetown.

Read more: Canadian Premier League to play 2020 season in Charlottetown

Charlottetown won the right to serve as host for the league’s second season over Langford, B.C., and Moncton, N.B.

The approximately 300 players, coaches and officials are set to arrive in the city and form their own athletic bubble, which the CPL is calling the Island Games.

“No one outside the event can enter the bubble without going through the same quarantine and testing protocols that everybody else has,” commissioner David Clanachan told The Canadian Press in an interview Wednesday.

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Canadian Premier League season returns for 2020
Canadian Premier League season returns for 2020

The province requires visitors from outside Atlantic Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Clanachan said the CPL travelling party has already started self-isolation at home and will do an additional five days when its charters land Aug. 8.

The league’s health and safety protocols have been approved by Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health office.

“I think it’s a really good idea,” said Barbara Rankin.

“Listening to Dr. Morrison, I think they have the appropriate things in place. And certainly, the island economy would benefit from this.”

Read more: Valour FC excited to play again as CPL unveils season plans

Many of the people Global News spoke to on Friday expressed a belief that the league will bring some economic benefit to the Island, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus’ restrictions on tourists.

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“Should be a good thing for the whole island I’m sure, especially with everything going on with COVID and stuff like that,” said Riley Whittingham.

“We’re pretty clean here nowadays having no cases or anything, so I guess that could probably be a concern for a lot of people but I think the island’s been pretty good at dealing with it so far so I think they’ll be able to figure it out.”

As of Friday, the province has had only 36 cases of the virus. All of them have recovered and there have been no deaths.

Although the bleachers will be virtually empty as games are played, the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber’s interim CEO says it’s certainly a positive for the province.

“Obviously, you’re going to have to look for the economic impact from other areas,” said Gerard Adams.

“Obviously these players will need accommodations, they’ll need meals, they’ll need transportation”

Canadian Premier League season returns for 2020
Canadian Premier League season returns for 2020

Matthew MacKay, P.E.I.’s tourism minister, said the government expects a direct $5-million injection into the economy with a total marketing spinoff of about $12-million.

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MacKay also says players will be isolated in the Delta Hotels Prince Edward, will undergo four COVID-19 tests and will only be allowed from the turf to the hotel.

The Island Games will open with a rematch of last season’s final between champion Forge FC and Calgary’s Cavalry FC. The full schedule will be released at a later date.

With files from The Canadian Press