Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid June to early July start

A referee takes the game ball from a pedestal at the beginning of the inaugural soccer match of the Canadian Premier League between Forge FC of Hamilton and York 9 in Hamilton, Ont. Saturday, April 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett.

The Canadian Premier League plans to kick off its third season mid-June to early July in one location without fans.

Unlike last year, which turned into a shortened tournament based out of Charlottetown, the Canadian circuit plans a full schedule. Each of the eight clubs will play 28 regular-season games, with the hope that they will be able to return to home markets with fans in the stands at some point.

“We also recognize that that may not happen simultaneously, so we’re prepared to adjust to that too,” said commissioner David Clanachan, referencing the possibility that some jurisdictions will open up sooner than others.

Read more: Forge FC to host Toronto FC in TBD Canadian championship final in Hamilton

The proposal means the season will end in mid- to late October, with the championship in early to mid-November.

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The CPL had hoped to begin play May 22 on the Victoria Day long weekend, but announced in late April that it was pushing back the start due to the pandemic.

The league has yet to announce the starting location, saying it has received interest from several locales including international sites. Wherever the season starts, the teams will be in a bubble to help shield against COVID-19.

The CPL managed to avoid any positive tests at the Island Games, according to Clanachan.

“There’s no shortage of those that are interested (in hosting). It’s a matter of finding the right fit,” said Clanachan.

Given Forge FC and York United FC have yet to receive government approval to start training camp, Ontario would seem well down the list.

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“We would rather be in Canada,” Clanachan said when asked about foreign locales.

On the plus side, staging games in one location reduces travel costs considerably and allows for a more compressed schedule, given the teams are already in place.

“That’s the one thing I can take out of it that we can use to our advantage,” Clanachan said of the latest plan.

The 2021 season will involve an single-table format. Clanachan said the league has yet to finalize its playoff format.

Last year’s Island Games tournament ran Aug. 13 to Sept. 9 at the University of Prince Edward Island, with Hamilton’s Forge defending the title it won in the league’s inaugural 2019 season.

Read more: Canadian Premier League offers first glimpse at its bottom line

The league’s original 2020 season was scheduled to run April 11 through Oct. 4 with teams playing a 28-game campaign. The regular-season winner was to advance to the championship game, with the second- and third-place teams to face off to decide the other finalist.

Only four of the league’s eight teams are currently in full training – Pacific FC, Cavalry FC, FC Edmonton and Atletico Ottawa (in Madrid). HFX Wanderers FC had been in full training but has been limited to working out in small groups due to tighter restrictions recently imposed in Nova Scotia.

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Winnipeg’s Valour FC plans to open its training camp on Monday. Its players have been training in a limited capacity.

Clanachan said teams in Ontario will have to go elsewhere to hold their training camp unless the province relaxes is restrictions.

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