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CPL announces new opponent for Pacific FC

Island-based Pacific FC will have a new opponent and, of course, one would guess it will wear some shade of green.

Island-based Pacific FC will have a new opponent and, of course, one would guess it will wear some shade of green.

The sport called football throughout much of the world comes to a province in which the gridiron version is almost a religion and where people bleed Roughriders green. Saskatoon will become the Canadian Premier League’s ninth soccer franchise, likely in 2023, contingent on the construction of a soccer-specific stadium. It will be 4,000 capacity to start with room to expand. The ownership group is Living Sky Sports and Entertainment Inc., a Saskatchewan-based company.

It means a lot to Pacific FC co-owner, GM and CEO Rob Friend, who was born in Rosetown, Sask.

“I believe Saskatchewan is a ready market,” said Friend.

“I am proud of my Saskatchewan roots. It is a humble and hard-working province. It has the Roughriders and hockey, but soccer is growing there at the youth level and starting to produce a few players and a sophisticated fan base. The province is absolutely ready for this.”

Friend, a former Bundesliga professional who was capped 32 times for Canada, said he can already envision PFC’s first visit to the so-called Paris of the Prairies.

“This is an exciting first step for Saskatchewan finally getting recognition on the national soccer stage,” he said. “As a CPL club owner, I am looking forward to the day when Pacific FC plays its first game in Saskatoon.”

Because of his connections to the province, Friend was among the first Friday to tweet congratulations to Saskatoon. But the cheekiest tweet came from Winnipeg-based Valour FC of the CPL, which, over a picture of Winnipeg Blue Bombers CFL running-back and former VI Raiders junior Andrew Harris, wrote: “We’re excited to continue the tradition of Manitoba sports teams winning in Saskatchewan.”

The Saskatoon team will join PFC, which plays at Westhills Stadium in Langford, FC Edmonton, Cavalry FC of Calgary, Valour FC, Atletico Ottawa, York United of Toronto, Forge FC of Hamilton and HFX Wanderers of Halifax.

“This is Canada’s top-tier league for men’s professional football and we talk about it being a coast-to-coast league and being in Saskatchewan is another piece to the puzzle,” CPL commissioner David Clanachan said in a statement.

The CPL was established in 2019 with PFC among the seven charter members. Atletico Ottawa, owned by famed Spanish club Atletico Madrid, was added in 2020.

PFC was founded by a three-person ownership group that includes Friend, former European pro and 43-time Canada capped Island product Josh Simpson and Knightsbridge Capital president and CEO Dean Shillington, the latter, like Friend, also a native of Saskatchewan.

Before the CPL, Canada was the only developed nation without a domestic pro premiership league, a situation considered untenable with Canada set to co-host the 2026 World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico. (Major League Soccer is the domestic U.S. league, with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC considered guest clubs).

The 2021 CPL season is scheduled to begin on May 22.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com