The only all-Canadian professional soccer league is contesting a season after all. The eight teams of the Canadian Premier League have gathered in the maritime city of Charlottetown, P.E.I. Canada’s potato capital and the home of Anne Of Green Gables is playing host to the CPL’s season in a bubble.
The CPL’s 28-game 2020 season was originally slated for an April 11th launch. Like so many other sports, the CPL’s plans were scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 29th, CPL officials revealed that they would salvage the season by condensing it into this round-robin tournament being held in Charlottetown.
The action began on August 13th with a rematch of last season’s CPL championship game between defending champions Forge FC and Cavalry FC.
About The CPL
Canada was left without a fully professional soccer league when the Canadian Soccer League folded in 1992. A semi-pro version of the CSL operated from 2010-13 but without official recognition from the Canadian Soccer Association, the sport’s regulating body within the country.
The CSA officially sanctioned the CPL on May 6th, 2017 but it wasn’t until last year that the league contested its first season. The CPL operated as a seven-team outfit and followed the Latin American format of dividing the season into two halves and declaring a champion of each half.
The two champions squared off in a two-leg final that Forge FC won 2-0 over Cavalry FC.
For the 2020 season, Atlético Ottawa, a side owned by Spanish La Liga power Atlético Madrid, joined the CPL as an expansion franchise. The CPL’s eight teams are spread across five of Canada’s 10 provinces. Matches between Pacific FC in B.C. and HFX Wanderers FC in Halifax, N.S. require the third-longest away trips of any domestic professional soccer league in the world. The two teams are separated by 4,476 kilometres.
With an even number of teams, the CPL opted for a 28-game season rather than a split season, with each club slated to play 14 home and 14 away matches. However, those plans were scrapped when COVID-19 struck.
The profile of the CPL is being raised by a healthy amount of coverage across the world of football where you can also access sports betting odds on certain matches.
2020 CPL Season Format
Unable to play out a regular schedule, the CPL devised this plan to congregate all eight sides at one site and play a tournament-style format to determine the 2020 CPL champion. Charlottetown was chosen to be the host city.
Dubbed The Island Games, the eight teams are all facing each other in a round-robin format. There will be 28 matches contested during this first stage. The top four finishers will advance to the second round, a six-match group stage in which they again will all clash in a round-robin format.
The top two teams after the second-stage matches are completed will face each other in a single-elimination championship final to determine the 2020 CPL champion.
Life In The Bubble
Some 300 players, coaches and officials are all being housed in the same Charlottetown hotel during The Island Games. They are following a format similar to the MLS Is Back tournament, where everyone involved must remain in a bubble except when they go to the stadium for matches or training sessions. All of the matches and training sessions are being held at the University of Prince Edward Island.
Each team is self-isolating on a separate floor of the hotel.
“Let’s be honest, there’s a lot worse places to be in life and we’re very happy to be in this beautiful province,” Robert Gale, head coach and general manager of Winnipeg’s Valour Football Club told CBC.ca.
“We’re just lucky we’re back doing something we love and able to compete in competition so we have to be grateful for that opportunity.”
All involved are being tested regularly for COVID-19. Spectators are not permitted at the matches but all of the games are being broadcast either online or on television.