Rollins: 2021 CPL Season To Kick Off In Winnipeg
Canadian soccer reporter Duane Rollins has claimed that the 2021 Canadian Premier League season will be kicking off in Winnipeg, Manitoba on the weekend of June 26.
The league’s third season had initially intended to launch on the Victoria Day Long Weekend, though safety precautions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prompted the league to postpone its third season.
Earlier this month, Canadian Premier League Commissioner David Clanachan announced that the 2021 season would be kicking off in either June or early July from a single location, with hopes that teams could return to home markets with fans in the stands later on in the season.
Winnipeg has been long-rumoured as a potential host city for a bubble tournament, with Valour FC home ground IG Field and additional facilities at the University of Manitoba providing ample turf pitch space to host an eight team league.
However, a rise in COVID-19 cases since April cast some doubt on to whether Manitoba was the right place for a bubble, even if the league’s players, staff, and officials were to be sequestered at a hotel when not present for matches.
While rising vaccination rates are helping in the fight against COVID-19, the numbers aren’t quite where they need to be for the season to kick off with home markets in the near future. Just six of eight Canadian Premier League teams have been able to begin preseason training thus far, with Forge FC and York United still locked down under current provincial restrictions. According to Rollins, Atletico Ottawa – who traveled to Spain to train – is set to return to Canada in the next few days.
In Charlottetown last year, the previous bubble tournament came and went with zero positive cases, with Forge FC hoisting the North Star Shield. In the latter stages of the season, some spectators were allowed to take in some of the matches at UPEI Turf Field.
Rollins also stated that Saint John’s exists as a backup location, which falls in line with previous speculation that the east coast was a strong contender to host a bubble tournament in back-to-back seasons. While Pacific FC was open to the idea of hosting the start of the 2021 CPL Season, a bubble in BC seems much less likely at the present.
While last year’s Island Games bubble tournament featured a highly condensed seven-match regular season for each club followed by a group stage for the top four, the 2021 Canadian Premier League season will be a full length 28 match season for each team, though the structure of the CPL Final has yet to be determined.
While the league has yet to make any official announcements in terms of this year’s bubble location, Rollins was fairly accurate when he disclosed information about The Island Games prior to its official announcement last season, with Northern Tribune supplying some additional information such as the group stage structure and the name of the tournament itself.
It remains unclear whether players have been deeply consulted regarding the location or structure of the bubble tournament, which is something that PFA Canada and many fans had been pushing for. The union hoping to represent the league’s athletes has made some big strides over the past few months, earning FIFPRO membership and putting pressure on the league to be more transparent with its salary cap information. (Editor’s Note: Shortly after the publication of this article, a trusted source disclosed that the league is utilizing a small scale player’s council – similar to last year’s captain’s council – which has reportedly had one meeting)
While what shape the 2021 Canadian Premier League season takes is still yet to be determined, it’s looking like Winnipeg is more than likely the starting location for the Canadian Premier League’s third season – though the action may spread coast-to-coast as the year progresses and health restrictions are allowed to ease.
Source: Duane Rollins (via Twitter)