P.E.I. chosen over Langford to host Canadian Premier League

They are being dubbed the Island Games, but they won’t be on this Island.

From rock to rock, Pacific FC will fly to Prince Edward Island to contest the 2020 Canadian Premier League pro soccer season. Charlottetown beat out bids from Langford and Moncton, N.B., to host all games, beginning Aug. 13 with a rematch of the 2019 championship final between Forge FC of Hamilton and Cavalry FC of Calgary.

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The league said the rest of the schedule will be announced over the next few days. The eight teams will play each other once in a 28-match first stage. The top-four teams will advance to a six-game group stage, in which the second- and third-place teams will meet in a semifinal, to decide who will play the top team in a single-game championship final in late September. The games will be played without spectators, but all will be produced and packaged by Spanish giant MediaPro and streamed live online via OneSoccer. CPL commissioner David Clanachan said the league is also in talks with two national TV networks and “very close” to a deal.

Pacific FC officials took Langford’s hosting snub in their stride.

“We’re very excited to have the season take place at all considering the crazy situation going on,” said PFC president Josh Simpson.

“Our players are excited about this tournament, regardless of location. The most important thing is getting back to playing. Our fans couldn’t have been able to come out to watch the games live, anyways. They can still follow our games live in P.E.I. and that’s what matters most.”

Simpson said P.E.I. came up with “a good proposal.”

“The City of Langford was outstanding to work with and put forward a competitive package. It came down to the inner workings of the different provincial governments,” said Simpson, a former European pro player out of the Juan de Fuca youth association, who was capped 43 times for Canada.

The CPL said it was in “deep discussions” with Langford and Moncton.

“Langford did a very good job — Mayor Stew Young is a force — but it just didn’t jell at the right time,” Clanachan said. “B.C. was also going through the [Vancouver] NHL hub-city process at the time and the health protocols took longer. It just missed clicking for Langford. It was just one of those things. It was not meant to be.”

Clanachan said players and team staff will self-quarantine in their home regions for 14 days before taking charter flights to Charlottetown. All CPL players, coaches and training staff have been tested for COVID-19 twice already and all tests were negative. “They will be tested again as they land and again in a five-day quarantine [in Charlottetown],” Clanachan said.

The CPL players, coaches and staff will take over the Delta hotel on the Charlottetown waterfront.

“We are creating a bubble within the [Atlantic Canada] bubble. All our people will be together and can’t leave [except for games and practices]. They can’t interact with other people on the Island,” Clanachan said. “The plan is above and beyond. This will be one of the safest places to be. This is not something done on the back of an envelope. This has been planned over a few months. Our players support this. At the end of the day, they want to play soccer.”

The CPL season was supposed to start in April. “People ask what took so long,” Clanachan said. “Our world has been turned upside down. We had to have the right safety measures and right protocols in place and that’s why.”

PFC will fly to Charlottetown on Aug. 8.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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