Over the past decade, Canada has made various attempts to build a sustainable and professional national league. Unfortunately, previous efforts have failed to maintain critical mass for themselves. Canada is a very large nation with a diverse population that creates challenges for national competitions in many ways. In addition, a recent study by Canada Soccer has shown that the structure at the top of the Canadian men’s football pyramid needs to be reorganized to promote significant growth and improve the results of men’s national teams.
The Canadian Football Association (CSA) took advantage of the opportunities and challenges and decided that the best long-term approach to achieving its goals was for the country to build its own national professional league. With this in mind, the CSA has strongly promoted the creation of the Canadian Premier League (CPL), and in 2019 the CPL was launched with the support of the FIFA striker program.
The Canadian Football Association is now taking advantage of the moment after it recently won the 2026 joint hosting of the above FIFA World Cup ™ with Mexico and the United States. This undoubtedly brings with it immense hype and contact with football in its host countries and offers this nation the unique opportunity to build its own league once and for all.
This nationwide league has been designed as a brand new, fully professional league to improve the level of Canadian professional football and offer fans a high level of competition. The league’s provisions are clearly aimed at promoting the growth of the national team and the development of the league. An example of this is the requirement to start each game with at least six local players on the teams’ starting grid.
In addition, domestic players on a team who are 21 or younger must play together for at least 1,000 minutes during the season. These measures offer young players a clear path. Before the new competition started, most players pursuing their dream of becoming a professional had to travel abroad. However, the CPL is now giving them the roadmap and motivation to become a professional soccer player in their own country.
With the World Cup still, a few years away, the current start-up and growth phase is seen as a great opportunity to ensure that the league develops a market suitable for using the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Although traveling in multiple time zones (most games require commercial air travel and overnight stays) and the climatic conditions are undoubtedly challenging, Canadian soccer fans are finally having a national coast-to-coast competition.
The first CPL season started with seven teams from different cities (Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Halifax, Langford, Winnipeg, and York). This promoted the feeling of kinship and belonging of the fans to their respective teams and at the same time contributed to regional rivalries.
The existence of the Canadian Premier League is also an important motivating factor for referees. The opportunity to become a referee in this new domestic league at the highest level is a big goal that motivates them to continue their training and improvement. In this context, the CSA expanded its capacity-building activities, and in 2019 more than 900 men and 300 women had the opportunity to participate in workshops and training activities across the country.
The Canadian men’s national team will certainly be another big beneficiary of the thriving new league. The CPL will not only inspire a new generation of players but will also provide a first-class environment to develop their skills and gain local experience. Particular attention to the development of local and young players will definitely help to create and expand the appropriate player base for the Canadian men’s national team.
This approach is expected to produce positive results in the upcoming international competitions, and the CSA men’s national team is particularly looking forward to an impressive “home” performance in 2026.
In summary, the league expects challenges in the first year of operation. However, a solid foundation has been created on which to build in 2020 and beyond. The Canadian Premier League and of course the 2026 FIFA World Cup will definitely help to further establish Canada as a footballing nation.