Noonan On CPL Expansion: Quebec Leads The Charge, But Other Locations Looming
Canadian Premier League Commissioner Mark Noonan revealed plenty of positives during his state of the league address last month, including the revelation of a new buyer for York United and expansion plans to see two new clubs in 2025 and at least a further pair in 2026, hitting his goal of 12 teams by the time Canada hosts a World Cup.
Speaking with Le Droit earlier this season, the commissioner loosed some fantastic morsels on expansion for not only La Belle province, but a couple others as well. These offer a more complete picture of where the league is actively eyeing expansion, and while the French coverage didn’t cover the ground it should have in English media, upon seeing it we wanted to organize it for the rest of the audience – and add some new items from ourselves, too.
Without further ado, here’s some big statements on where the CPL is focusing on expansion:
Quebec City Leading The Race
We’ve long written about Quebec City headlining the chase for expansion, where the majority of residents are in favour of a professional soccer club. Noonan openly stated that the provincial capital is the furthest place along in terms of the league planting a flag in Quebec, but there are things that still need to be sorted out.
“I can’t give a date for expansion in Quebec, but I’d like a club there as soon as possible. We have momentum in Quebec City right now, but a CPL club couldn’t play permanently at Laval University. It would have to be a short-term solution. We’re not going to approve a club in Quebec City if there isn’t a stadium project attached to it.”
Fans can look no further than York United to see how a university stadium can put tough limits on what a club can do to build a matchday atmosphere. With attendance proving a tough spell over there, the league looks to have learned its lesson: Quebec City will need to have a firm stadium project attached to it, though it appears some wiggle room will be given if Stade Telus is to used temporarily. While it boasts a full capacity north of 18,000, it’s not an ideal situation – but then again, it’s also not ideal for Canada’s top flight not to have a team in Quebec.
With Saskatoon now in pergatory after its own stadium plans fell flat, though, it’s a measure of risk-versus-reward only somewhat mitigated by a temporary venue’s existence. At the present, Noonan remains in positive discussions with Quebec Soccer general manager Pierre Marchand, who has long-said discussions to bring the CPL to Quebec were making progress.
Over in Montreal – where there’s ample competition from MLS heights – Noonan has turned his eyes specifically on Laval, where there have been longstanding rumours of league expansion since 2019, particularly with former Canadian international Alex Bunbury.
“Whether it’s Quebec City, Montreal, or Trois-Rivieres, our clubs need a place to play,” says Noonan, who wants to see these areas secure stadium plans where the expansion sides are the primary tenants – if not owners – of their prospective stadium grounds.
While he’d like to plant a flag in Quebec ‘yesterday’, it’s another case of patience and past lessons learnt, though he listed Quebec as top of his expansion priorities for Canada’s top flight. He isn’t worried about competition from CF Montreal either, though he offered their rival metropolitan city as an example of sports entertainment density.
“In London, there are 14 professional teams in a single market. Half are in the Premier League and half in the English Championship. Eventually, if we do our job right, we could have four-to-six clubs in the Toronto area because the population is there to support these teams.”
He Wants Alphonso Davies Involved
The harshest lesson the league has endured was the loss of FC Edmonton: just one season after Tom and Dave Fath pulled out, the league made the tough decision to pull the plug on an ownerless club that was passed over by multiple parties, including 777 Partners. While the league remained at eight clubs this season thanks to the timely arrival of Vancouver FC, Noonan wants to claim back the city.
“In Edmonton, I’d like to convince Alphonso Davies to get involved,” he revealed. “It would be a good project for him and his community.”
Sports Bild reported that Davies earns about fourteen million dollars per year on his current Bayern Munich contract, and while that certainly gives the Canadian international plenty of capital, asking him to splash cash to revive his hometown club is no small task. While he’s always shown great care for his community, there are no concrete links between Alphonso and the CPL beyond this shout-out from the commissioner.
Noonan had said at the time of FC Edmonton’s folding that the club didn’t have the conditions to be successful on and off the field, citing their league-lowest attendance and revenue along with poor performances on the pitch despite incremental league investment. He said at the time that the Edmonton soccer community deserved better, and that he would like to start fresh with a new Edmonton franchise and a better stadium solution.
“Our biggest obstacle in Canada is the lack of adequate infrastructure,” said Noonan more presently.
Much as he said in his state of the league address ahead of the 2023 CPL Final, the commissioner made it clear that they won’t get ahead of themselves when it comes to expansion announcements.
“To add clubs, the right conditions have to be in place. That’s the key to success. We’ve had some bumps in the road in certain markets in Canada because we didn’t have the right owners, facilities, community, or corporate support. I’d like to reiterate that we’ve never been more motivated to expand into the province of Quebec, where we still don’t have a team.”
A Shout For Kelowna, Too
Last November we broke the news that an official league document pitched to potential investors detailed the Kelowna expansion as official, though the league has remained largely silent on the matter. Noonan opened up about the project, stating they’re in ‘serious discussions’ to add a team there, so it looks like he’s still playing that card close to his chest.
Kelowna’s own partnership director Bob Evans had spilled news to Castanet last year that a formal multi-use development proposal for a stadium site had backing from the CPL, so the lack of formal news on that front appears to be league ensuring everything is firmly in place before making any public announcements this time.
Many New Owners Approaching
Noonan made it no secret that the club was speaking with a high number of ownership groups who are interested in investing, but are at very different stages in their discussions. The number of high-interest parties who had signed an NDA was 15 a few weeks ago, with Noonan revealing that it grew to 16 during the 2023 CPL Final, with a brand new group touring the scene.
We believe they were from La Liga side Cadiz, who have been taking serious strides to grow their international brand and will have liked how Atletico Madrid have done so with Ottawa.
“We have good owners in our sights in Canada,” said Noonan over the summer. “Our barrier is our facilities. You go to Texas and there are 120 soccer stadiums for high school teams. Most of them are of better quality than here… my brother coaches the Clemson University Tigers in South Carolina, and his team plays in a superb 6,000-seat stadium. The pitch is perfect. His club has its own offices, its own weight room, and even its own practice field. Canada is a country that isn’t interested in investing in its sports franchises, but when there is interest, everyone shares the facility like Atletico [Ottawa] with the Redblacks.
“We’re still at the beginning of our growth cycle. It’s the most difficult period, but we survived the pandemic in our early days and our teams are starting to become well-rooted in their communities,” finishes the commissioner. “There’s still plenty of room for growth.”
Source: Le Droit