Sober Second Thoughts: The CanPL Is Broken, Let’s Fix It

By Duane Rollins

The first year of the Canadian Premier League has delivered in almost every category. 

It’s had break out players, rivalries, characters, international success and two great teams. It has been nearly perfect. 

Except for one thing: We barely had a reason to look at the table. The format that was settled on has made the CanPL season a long march to the final. Cavalry ran away and hid in the Spring season and Hamilton was the only team to find them in the fall. Yes, the battle for the fall lead is tight – 2 pts separate the rivals at the time of writing – but the any meaning behind winning a fall table was stripped when it was announced that Calgary would play host to the second leg of the final last week.


(photo credit: Canadian Premier League)

The fall leader was originally supposed to select what leg they would host, but one look at the CFL schedule told us all we needed to know. The Ti-Cats would be playing at Tim Hortons Field on Nov 2. 

Some may argue that the spring and fall campaigns are “championships” on their own. I will accept that argument on one condition – show me the photo of Cavalry standing in confetti with a trophy following the spring campaign. 

I’ll save you the trouble. There isn’t such a photo. That’s because the CanPL decided not to award a trophy and, by doing so, betrayed what most understood to be true – that the seasons weren’t really competitions, but rather qualifiers for the championship final. 

canpl final

The great irony of all this is that I was told that the reason that the league went with a split season out of fear that they would have a runaway winner in a single table, thus taking interest and eyeballs away from the league. And, had they stuck to their single table purist instincts they actually would have had a hell of race on their hands. Cavalry is currently on 53 points, just three ahead of Forge.  

On the other hand had they leaned in to their North American instincts they would have had a great playoff race on their hand with pretty much everyone still in the race. 

If it was a three team playoff, Edmonton would be clinging on to the third spot just a point up on York. At four teams York is only a point up on Pacific. Every game would have great meaning and intrigue.     

Alas, the instead decided to go with a half-measure format that will neither satisfy the single table purists not the playoff lovers. Although the final will undoubtedly be entertaining, it’s going to be a slow waltz to get there. Hopefully, the momentum of the league won’t be lost by then. 

On Soccer Today I’ve been clear on my preference. I want a playoff. In my mind, North American leagues need to have that “big moment,” and suggesting that a single table format will have the same impact to the typical North American sports fan is soccer bubble thinking. It simply won’t. 

However, if the wishes of the powers-that-be are to go to a single table, so be it. Just go to a single table. No split season, no half assed final, embrace it.

Regardless, this is a new league and it should not be married to any specific format in the early years. It is not a sign of weakness to change things up for season two. In fact, it should happen. The greatest advantage of starting a league in 2019 is that there is no right or wrong way to do things. You aren’t chained to traditions.

If something isn’t working, fix it. 

This format needs fixing for 2020. 


Listen to Duane Rollins on Canada’s most listened daily soccer podcast, Soccer Today! on SPN Monday to Friday at 11am.

2 replies »

  1. Well, for a 7 team league, you really have no choice but a single table. I agree with a single season and playoff format, though.


  2. Actually, to call the league “broken” is really overstating things. It isn’t broken, they’ve done a lot of things right. Better than any league I’ve seen come and go over the years. The season and playoff structure needs review, though, for sure.


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