Fans who have been anxiously awaiting the return of pro soccer to Canada can rejoice, as proposals for the Canadian Premier League have been approved. The richest country in the world without its own professional league, the CPL aims to improve the country’s talent from within. The league’s first two teams, located in Hamilton and Winnipeg, are key to fostering both development and passion for the beautiful game in Canada.
The Canada Soccer Association recently announced the approval of a proposed Canadian Premier League, with two teams already planned and 10 other cities interested. The league, which aims to begin play in 2018, has picked two ideal founding cities. Both Winnipeg and Hamilton not only have a passionate fanbase, but the infrastructure and facilities necessary for a professional team. In addition, both cities had teams in the Canadian Soccer League (CSL), the country’s last attempt at a top flight division which lasted from 1987-1992.
Located in Ontario, Canada, the city of Hamilton has a rich soccer history that includes the Hamilton Steelers in the heyday of the CSL. More recently though, the city has been home to several programs run by Street Soccer Canada. The programs send teams to the National Street Soccer Championship, in addition to helping out local at-risk and underprivileged populations.
While it hasn’t been officially named yet, two patents were filed last fall for the Hamilton Steelers and Hamilton United. Whatever the team name may be, it shouldn’t have any trouble garnering support given the city’s history. In fact, Hamilton has already formed a supporter’s club. The Barton Street Battalion, founded last year, describe themselves on their Facebook page as “Hamilton soccer supporters anxiously awaiting a professional team to return to the Ambitious City.”
In addition to already having fan support, the new team has a stadium to play in. Tim Hortons Field, which is the current home of the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Hamilton Tiger-Cats, has a 24,000 person capacity. The stadium also hosted soccer matches during the 2015 Pan American Games.
Like its fellow founding city Hamilton, Winnipeg also has a lengthy history within the beautiful game. The Winnipeg Fury of the CSL won the league’s final championship before it disbanded in 1992. Winnipeg’s only current professional soccer team is WSA Winnipeg, which plays in the Premier Development League, the fourth tier of U.S. soccer.
Winnipeg’s Canadian Premier League team looks set to play at Investors Group Field, which is the current home of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The stadium has a 33,234 person capacity and was a hosting site for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Winnipeg hosted six group stage matches at the World Cup, producing an average attendance of 28,074 people per match.
Again like Hamilton, Winnipeg has started to form a supporters group in anticipation of a pro team returning to the city. The Red River Rising are a quickly growing bunch that look to fill out Investors Group Field.
With the Canadian Premier League considering an eventual promotion/relegation system, things could get very entertaining in the future as similarly passionate communities throughout Canada cheer their teams on in the hopes of experiencing top flight football. The league plans to begin with eight teams initially, and if 16 teams are in existence by 2020, relegation may start.
It’s about time Canada gets its own professional league, and only time will tell if it can make a return to the World Cup, a feat it has only accomplished once in 1986.