The Canadian Premier League will begin its season on June 26, beginning with a month of games in Winnipeg.
The Manitoba capital will host the first 32 games of the campaign with each of the eight teams playing eight games in a stretch that runs through July 24.
The league is committed to teams playing a full season of 28 regular-season games, in a single-table format, and says it hopes to return to local markets after the first part of the season in Winnipeg.
But many questions remain to be answered in that regard, including whether games and / or fans will be allowed in some or all of those local markets. The goal of the league, understandably, is to get back into the local markets in front of the fans.
“I have told our people that we have to be flexible,” said CPL Commissioner David Clanachan.
All Winnipeg games will be played fanless at IG Field, home of Valor FC and the CFL Blue Bombers.
The season will begin on June 26 with FC Edmonton versus Atlético de Ottawa and Pacific FC versus HFX Wanderers FC. The next day, it is the defending champion Forge FC against Valor FC and Cavalry FC against York United FC.
Winnipeg’s full schedule will be released on Wednesday, with the remainder of the season to follow at a later date.
Clanachan said the league had received offers for 11 locations to host the first part of the season, with cities in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and five Canadian provinces interested.
“We wanted to stay here,” Clanachan said of Canada. “We thought it was important to do that, for our fans and our supporters. But also, sorry for the pun, (for) a shot in the arm for Canada.”
Staying in Canada also allows the league to be more “flexible and agile in case things open up faster,” he added.
“I want to be back in our local markets playing in front of the fans and supporters as quickly as possible. You can finally see that light at the end of the tunnel, I think. It’s still far away, but I think we can see that.”
Another advantage was arriving in a city that had a CPL team, which means that much of what is needed is already in place.
The CPL is billing the 29-day single city format as “The Startup Presented by Volkswagen.”
The CPL expected to start play on May 22 on the Victoria Day long weekend, but announced in late April that it was delaying the start due to the pandemic.
Last year, the league’s second season turned into a shortened Charlottetown-based tournament. The Island Games were held from August 13 to September 9 at the University of Prince Edward Island, with Hamilton’s Forge defending the title it won in the league’s inaugural 2019 season.
The 2020 season was originally scheduled to run from April 11 to October 10. 4. The 2019 inaugural regular season ran from April 27 to October 27. 19, divided into spring and autumn campaigns.
Forge and York United FC will head to Winnipeg early to escape the training restrictions of the local pandemic.
York has yet to receive permission to train in Ontario, while Forge began limited training in groups of 10 on Friday. Atlético de Ottawa held their camp in Madrid and, now back home, they are in quarantine until June 13.
Teams will be screened for COVID-19 before travel, for the first seven days, and then weekly in Winnipeg.
Players from different teams will only interact with other sides during matches. As in Charlottetown, about 300 players, staff and officials will be staying in a hotel.
“The health and safety of all Manitobans is our first priority and public health has been working together with the Canadian Premier League and Valor Football Club to bring this event to Winnipeg safely and within current orders of public health, “said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s provincial director of public health, said in a statement.
The tournament is supported by a commitment from the Winnipeg Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development through a provincial long-term recovery fund. Last November, the Manitoba government provided $ 50 million to these organizations to help the province’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, said the Winnipeg games will translate into more than 5,500 nights booked in hotel rooms and $ 4.9 million in economic benefits.
The CPL wants to present the new uniform of its teams on Monday.