Pandemic tests Canadian Premier League and Pacific FC

It will be about more than soccer today when the 2020 Canadian Premier League pro season, four months later than planned and at a single venue, kicks off a campaign unlike any other when the 2109 finalists Forge FC of Hamilton and Cavalry FC of Calgary meet in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Island-based Pacific FC begins on Saturday at noon PDT against HFX Wanderers of Halifax. The game will be screened on CBC.

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The pandemic year has tested everyone’s resolve and commitment. “Nobody has seen anything like this before,” said PFC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.

“This has been about more than sports. It’s been about life, and what you choose for yourself. It's about character and persistence and sticking it out, which these players have done.”

All games will be played on the University of Prince Edward Island’s FIFA-standard Alumni Field turf facility without fans amid the league's “bubble” after Charlottetown beat out Langford and Moncton, N.B., to host the season tournament.

All eight CPL teams quarantined for 14 days before leaving their cities and quarantined an additional five days in Charlottetown, where each club is occupying a separate floor in the city's waterfront Delta hotel.

Each player was tested for COVID in their home communities and again upon landing in Charlottetown.

“The set-up is very good. The CPL and P.E.I. have done a great job,” said Kah, a former Norwegian international.

Each of the eight teams will play the other once in the round-robin portion of the made-for-TV tournament.

PFC’s other games are against York9 on Tuesday at 10 a.m., Forge FC of Hamilton on Aug. 22 at 1 p.m., Valour FC of Winnipeg on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m., Cavalry FC on Aug. 30 at 9 a.m., Atletico Ottawa on Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. and FC Edmonton on Sept. 6 at noon. All times are PDT.

All games will be broadcast live over the Web on OneSoccer.

The top-four teams will advance to a playoff-round robin. The top team from that will go directly into the league championship game while the second- and third-place teams will meet in a semifinal with the winner advancing to the championship final.

“Our mindset upon arrival is to get into that top-four,” said Kah.

“Our guys are on a mission here to win games.”

This is the second year for the long-awaited Canadian domestic pro soccer league, mandated by FIFA, as part of Canada hosting the 2026 World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico. Nobody could have anticipated the sophomore CPL being played in this abbreviated fashion amid a pandemic.

“The games will come fast and dense,” said Kah.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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