New team, new format for Canadian Premier League in P.E.I. return
'The Island Games' represent upstart soccer league's sophomore season
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The CPL is coming to P.E.I.
When Forge FC and Cavalry FC do battle tonight, it'll be the first Canadian Premier League match since the teams squared off in the championship last November, which Forge won 1-0.
Now, the league returns with a new team and a new format. Here's everything you need to know:
Atletico Ottawa is set to become the eighth CPL franchise. It joins Pacific FC (Vancouver Island, B.C), FC Edmonton, Cavalry FC (Calgary), Valour FC (Winnipeg), Forge FC (Hamilton, Ont.), York9 FC (York Region, Ont.) and HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax) for the second season of the upstart Canadian soccer league.
The season will be played from a bubble in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Appropriately dubbed 'The Island Games,' CPL players and staff underwent mandatory 14-day self-isolation before their arrival, and are now separated from the public in a hotel where regular COVID-19 testing takes place. On Tuesday, the league reported no cases among 276 people tested.
One long tournament will determine the season's champion. Beginning with tonight's championship rematch, every team will play each other once in a tightly scheduled round robin that goes until Sept. 6. The top four teams then advance to a second stage, where each club once again takes on the other three. The best two teams from there meet in a one-game championship, where the winner takes home the title and earns a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF league.
WATCH | Canadian Premier League to resume play in P.E.I.:
Forge is a success story, and may still be the team to beat. One part of the Hamilton club's success is obvious: it won the championship. The other showed how the CPL is supposed to run: league MVP and top scorer Tristan Borges, a 21-year-old from Toronto, parlayed his season into a deal with a first-division Belgian club. The CPL mandates that each team must accrue 250 minutes played by under-21 Canadians this season, as part of its effort to showcase Canadian talent, though in a regular year that number would be 1,000 minutes. Forge, meanwhile, mostly kept the rest of its roster intact while replacing Borges with young Belgian forward Paolo Sabak, one of the league's top off-season imports.
Cavalry is probably the co-favourite. The Calgary side earned the top spot in both the spring and fall campaigns last year, finishing a combined six points ahead of Forge before falling in the final. It also won its first seven games — the same number of first-round games it'll play in P.E.I. Like Forge, Cavalry lost its leading scorer from last year, but boasts a pressing attack which could be difficult for opponents to keep up with coming off of zero pre-season games.
You can catch all the Saturday action on every CBC platform. Tune in to CBC TV, CBC Gem, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app beginning at 1 p.m. ET each of the next four Saturdays for a CPL doubleheader. This weekend, Ottawa debuts against York9 in the opening match before a cross-coast matchup pits the Wanderers against Pacific FC at 3:30 p.m. ET. Click here for the full CBC schedule.
For more CPL stuff, check out this video breakdown of the league's return by CBC Sports' Jacqueline Doorey (below) and read commissioner David Clanachan's thoughts on how the bubble came together here.
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