Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

CPL commissioner confident of league's future

CPL will be twice the size by 2034, says Mark Noonan, in Greater Victoria as part of his tour of the eight league franchises, including Island-based Pacific FC.
Pacific FC’s Ayman Sellouf holds off Valour FC’s Dante Campbell in their match at Starlight Stadium on Friday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Mark Noonan is an American who is bullish on the future of the Canadian Premier League.

Not only will the CPL not disappear after the 2026 World Cup, but it will be twice the size by 2034, said league commissioner Noonan.

“Doubling the size of the league over the next decade is a high priority,” said Noonan, a former marketing executive with Major League Soccer.

The commissioner is in Greater Victoria this weekend as part of his tour of the eight league franchises, which includes Island-based Pacific FC.

Noonan did not provide specifics about potential future expansion sites for the six-year-old CPL, the domestic pro league created as a requirement for Canada to co-host the 2026 World Cup.

“Building a league is hard. It takes time and years to construct,” said Noonan, who won the U.S. collegiate NCAA national championship in 1986 with the Duke Blue Devils.

“But you need a foundation to start and we are building that foundation and will keep doing it year after year in more places.”

But it isn’t cheap. Noonan affirmed to the Times Colonist what he told The Canadian Press in December that CPL owners are $125 million into the league: “That number [$125 million] doesn’t bother me. People don’t understand the investment that went into this league. It’s an investment and no different than any start-up company. The investors are hoping that ultimately it will pay dividends. It’s a real investment in soccer in Canada.”

Noonan, who became the second CPL commissioner in 2022, believes it will. He dismisses those who say the CPL is only here as a necessary prop to 2026 — Canada was the only developed nation without a domestic pro soccer league — and that it will be gone after 2026. “That claim is one of the biggest jokes I’ve heard,” he said.

“It was a requirement. But the World Cup will only enhance Canadian pro soccer in Canada, not derail it. We’ve taken a lot of unfair hits and we’re not taking it anymore.”

Several players who have played overseas, have compared the level of the CPL with about the fourth professional level in the major European soccer countries — the equivalent of perhaps EFL League 2 (following the Premier League, EFL Championship and EFL League 1) in England. That’s actually not bad, considering no pro level of soccer existed in Canada prior to the CPL in 2019.

“The CPL is about developing Canadian players and a Canadian soccer ecosystem that didn’t exist,” said Noonan.

Several CPL players have moved up to MLS and Europe in the six years of league existence and there have even been call-ups to Canada.

With FIFA now officially barring Canadian teams from playing outside the country in U.S.-based leagues (other than the three Canadian MLS franchises and their farm teams), it will only be the CPL or any equivalent Canada-only league in which Canadian teams can compete.

“Any league based in New York is not going to place teams here on the Island or in Halifax,” said Noonan.

So local fans forget about options like the USL Premier Development League, in which the Victoria Highlanders once competed. That can’t happen anymore.

“If you do things right, for the right reasons for Canadian soccer like we are doing, you will not go away,” said Noonan.

[email protected]