Previewing the 2024 Canadian Premier League Season

From new rules to a ton of roster turnover, we take a look at what we can expect from the upcoming Canadian Premier League season.

The Canadian Premier League is back for its sixth season. And as you’d expect with any newer league, there have been several changes brought on in the early years. The 2024 season will bring a list of new features, from rules to roster turnover and ownership groups.

As we wait in anticipation for the new season to kick off, we take a look at some of those changes, along with a mini-preview for each of the league’s eight clubs.

League Rules and Changes

Of course, the big change for this year is the acquisition of the notably troubled club York United. Despite being located in Canada’s largest city, the Toronto club has historically struggled with attendance and had to undergo a rebrand after just its second season.

It’s not exactly the start any club wants to experience when it launches. Things seemed to go from bad to worse when the CanPL announced that it had taken control of the club under its business umbrella, Canada Soccer Business. At that time, many questioned whether the club would go the way of FC Edmonton, which folded, if the league couldn’t find a suitable buyer.

Thankfully, at the end of November 2023, the CanPL announced that the club had been sold to a Mexican group Game Plan Sports, which has deep familial ties to the Mexico Soccer Federation. So far, the purchase seems to be already paying dividends in terms of player experience, as the new ownership brought its team to Mexico for what looked like a lavish training camp experience.


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The second big change comes in regard to roster rules and, within that, the increase to the player compensation budget, also known as the salary cap. Starting with the roster construction rules, the CanPL has removed age requirements for the seven international roster spots per club. In prior seasons, clubs needed to maintain a 50% rate of international players being under the age of 23. Now, clubs can allocate international spots however they see fit.

The second rule adjustment relates to how many players can be under contract with a club. For the first five seasons of the league, clubs could have a maximum of 23 players under contract at any time; now, through the introduction of three new roster categories, that number has increased to a club potentially having 32 players under contract. The breakdown works as such:

  • Up to 23 roster spots for standard contracts, including international players. These are the only contracts that count towards the player compensation budget, as all other categories are budget exempt.
  • A maximum of two players on an “Exceptional Young Talent” contract. These contracts are for players under the age of 18 who are deemed to be well above the standard level of a youth player.
  • A maximum of four development contracts. These are short-term deals that give players up to six games with the senior squad without risking losing their collegiate eligibility.
  • A maximum of three U Sports (Canada’s version of the NCAA) contracts. These contracts are for players who have completed at least one season with a U Sports team and intend to return to their school at the beginning of the next collegiate season. These players typically only play with CanPL clubs until August, when they either return to school or forego their eligibility to continue playing professionally.

While it seems like the CanPL is adopting much of the convoluted MLS rules, I am all for increasing roster size, as that will only benefit Canadian players trying to test themselves at a professional level. You never know when a player needs the right opportunity to prove that they were an undiscovered talent.

Finally, we have the increase to the Player Compensation Budget. The budget has increased by about 8%, bringing the new total budget to $1,212,500 CAD. There is a specific wrinkle in this though. The only way a club can spend this much is if they maximize their under-21 Canadian player spending. U-21 Canadian players signed to the main roster will have half their salaries count towards the budget, up to $100,000 per season, split amongst the U-21 players. Once again, this feels like an MLS rule that will make it complicated for fans to calculate a team’s salary and budget, but if it improves the quality of the league and gives more young Canadians chances, I won’t complain.

All in all, it has been an extremely busy offseason for those at the league head office. With commissioner Mark Noonan’s continued leadership going into his second year at the helm, the league is in a healthier place than it ever has been. Now, all the league needs to do is continue having extremely competitive, intense seasons that provide a great on-field product.

Condensed Team Reviews

One of the few positives about a league with only eight teams is that you can give each one a bit of extra attention. Every transfer, every coaching change, and every kit launch becomes the dominant news story for the day, so it is relatively easy to follow along with every storyline throughout the season and off-season. With that, here are the storylines for each club heading into the season in order of location, west to east.

Pacific FC


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Pacific FC of Vancouver Island had one of the harsher off-seasons, as it lost arguably its two most prominent leaders in Manny Aparicio, who signed with Atlético Ottawa, and Amer Didic, who has yet to choose his next landing spot. In their places, Pacific has recruited three significant signings in Aly Ndom, who has played over 100 games in France’s Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, Romanian midfielder Andrei Tîrcoveanu, and Trinidad and Tobago international Reon Moore. With some smaller additions to the squad, the club will feel like it didn’t get worse, but in a league where almost every other club got better, it could be a tough season for the island team.

Vancouver FC

Vancouver FC, going into its second season, seem to have chosen to make small, consistent progress as it seeks to become a pathway for the best and brightest. In terms of upside, the club has one of the youngest squads in the league, and its recruitment in this off-season matches that. With the signings of Elage Bah and Grady McDonnell, the Eagles locked down two of the best under-20 players on the West Coast of Canada while retaining TJ Tahid and James Cameron, both of whom outperformed expectations as 17- and 18-year-olds respectively last season.

Outside of these signings, Vancouver also went out and signed experienced professionals to lead and nurture these young talents that the club hopes it will be able to sell on in the future. I expect Vancouver FC to push for the playoffs, but in the end fall just short.

Cavalry FC

Fresh off a stint in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, Cavalry FC is the defending CanPL regular season champions. Of all teams in the league, however, Cavalry has had the least fanfare for its moves this offseason. It added some great pieces without losing any overly significant players. Just like it did last season, Cavalry will come in as underdogs, but will not leave that way. Even with how much other teams have grown in the offseason, expect Cavalry to challenge for the title once again.

Valour FC


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Valour FC is in a tough position. It’s yet to make the CanPL playoffs in its history and is gaining a reputation as the “poverty” club of the CanPL. Most of the signings for this upcoming season are players who played at other CanPL clubs in the past but didn’t quite meet the standard to be stalwart starters. Add to that their best and most consistent player from last season Diego Gutierrez moved to Cavalry FC, and you have a football club that is built to remain in the doldrums.

Forge FC

Four titles in five seasons. Forge FC is a dynasty, or at least has been a dynasty since the creation of the Canadian Premier League. In the past two seasons, people have slowly started to question if the team could continue its success, and in 2023 the club faced plenty of adversity, yet still managed to hoist the CanPL Finals trophy.

With the departures of three of its most important players (Woobens Pacius, Rezart Rama, and Tristan Henry), the noise of Forge no longer being the strongest team is at an all-time high. Oddly, though, people are failing to mention that the team brought in a player with Bundesliga experience in Nana Ampomah and a loan player from CF Monterrey Daniel Parra. If the Forge can continue its domination of the league, this will be its toughest test yet.

York United FC

It is a new era in York, a suburb of Toronto. Acquired by Game Plan Sports, new ownership typically comes with new investment into the squad. Thankfully, not overly hamstrung by past deals, York has been able to bring in no less than seven new signings who should make an immediate impact. York should be quite competitive if it can stay healthy (which was a huge issue for the club last season). Head coach Martin Nash, brother of NBA legend Steve Nash, will look to turn things around for the oft-struggling club.

Atlético Ottawa


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Atlético Ottawa, owned by Atlético Madrid, had arguably the best offseason in CanPL history. It might be a touch hyperbolic, but the club’s moves have been so impressive that many are questioning the legitimacy of the salary cap. Ottawa brought in a new goalkeeper, a bright young Canadian wide player (who grew up in the Ottawa region), two star midfielders from other CanPL clubs, two new attackers with proven goalscoring ability in the league, and, to top it off, rumor has it that the club isn’t done yet with the big signings.

As of right now, there are very few people who wouldn’t put Ottawa at the top of their pre-season rankings. The only thing that could go against the team is a lack of depth, as it is undoubtedly heavy-loaded salary-wise for its starters. If Ottawa has any injury issues, there is a steep drop off in quality once you get past the starting eleven.

HFX Wanderers FC

Finally, we get to my hometown club, HFX Wanderers FC. Last season was a monumental success, with Patrice Gheisar being brought in as the head coach for his first season coaching at the professional level. Many expected that the club would struggle to adjust to the new system, and while it did take some time, the team found its feet and ended up finishing in third place in the regular season.

Now, with a full season and two training camps under its belt, the expectations have risen, while some very solid pieces have been added to supplement the overachievers from last year. For the HFX Wanderers, this is the first offseason where it felt like it wasn’t a complete rebuild, but more like adding weapons to an already lethal team.

The biggest win for the club in the off-season is the fact that it was able to keep all of the players it wanted, as many assumed that, based on their stellar performances, the star players (namely Dan Nimick and Lorenzo Callegari) would be sold in the off-season to clubs at a higher level.

So, with matches starting on April 13th, just a few weeks away, the league is set for another thrilling title race, with CONCACAF Champions Cup places on the line.

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