The Canadian Premier League this week proved what a fine line it is in pro sports.
CPL clubs Cavalry FC of Calgary and York9 of Toronto held Major League Soccer teams Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact to draws in the third round of the Canadian Championship for the Voyageurs Cup.
“It’s a compliment to our league [CPL] that started less than six months ago,” said Pacific FC general-manager and CEO Rob Friend.
“It showed the foundation we have laid as a pro league. We believe we have players on our team who will eventually be in the MLS.”
Among them could be rising 20-year-old PFC midfielder Noah Verhoeven, who was on John Herdman’s Canadian team practice roster for the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“We’re not surprised by the Voyageurs Cup results,” Verhoeven said.
“We know what level we are at in the CPL. Now, fans are starting to realize it, too.”
The Pacific FC season (0-1 second half and 3-5-2 first half) continues with a CPL fixture this afternoon at 3 p.m. at Westhills Stadium against Forge FC (0-1 and 6-3-1) of Hamilton, Ont.
“This week was huge for our league and provided a good answer to people who ask: ‘What is the standard of play in the CPL?’ ” PFC president Josh Simpson said.
“The CPL teams were not outclassed by the MLS teams.”
PFC head coach Michael Silberbauer agreed: “Those draws were not undeserved. And York should have actually won the game against Montreal.”
These are guys who know what they are talking about. Silberbauer, Friend and Simpson have played Premiership pro in Europe. All have been capped numerous times, Friend and Simpson for Canada and Silberbauer for Denmark.
They also know one-offs, however, are just that. Soccer cup competitions around the world are tricky for the favourites and laced with famous giant-killer moments.
“It was a good start for the CPL teams against the MLS teams, but it’s only halftime,” Silberbauer warned.
Away from home, Cavalry will almost certainly find it more daunting in the second leg against the Whitecaps at B.C. Place. The same goes for York9 in its second leg at Saputo Stadium in Montreal. But every level in sport serves its purpose.
“We are all developing and progressing and getting valuable pro experience in the CPL,” said 20-year-old PFC attacking-midfielder/forward Terran Campbell.
“This week’s results showed we [CPL players] can compete against MLS players and that we are building and developing in the CPL into better pros. It showed we are close to the next level.”
(With the goal of getting there one day for the larger paycheques the MLS affords.)
Meanwhile, Forge FC had the second-best record in the CPL first half behind Cavalry FC.
“We have to be organized in pressuring Forge and disturbing their buildup,” Silberbauer said. “If they built up in attack, they can be very difficult.”
CORNER KICKS: Canada’s previous attempt at a domestic pro soccer league will be recognized when PFC honours the Victoria Vistas during today’s game. The Vistas (1989 and 1990) played in the defunct Canadian Soccer League (1987 to 1992) and several of the Vistas players will be on hand at Westhills, including double heart-transplant recipient Simon Keith in a special tribute.
Other performers on the Vistas included Canadian World Cup players George Pakos, Ian Bridge and Randy Ragan and Scottish World Cup player Allan Evans.
“It’s important that the CPL is building a football culture across Canada, complete with supporters’ groups, while developing Canadian talent,” said former Vistas player Frank Woods, who is organizing today’s 30-year reunion.
A FIFA stipulation of co-hosting the 2026 World Cup is that Canada have a true domestic pro league (the Whitecaps, Impact and Toronto FC are considered guest teams in the MLS, which is the U.S. national pro league).
“The CPL has Canadian Soccer Association backing and a TV-rights deal. It’s a different era than the CSL. The CPL is here to stay,” Woods said.