CPL Expands To Vancouver As Canadian Soccer Interest Grows

Written By Jose Colorado on December 2, 2021 - Last Updated on December 4, 2021
View of downtown Vancouver with Canada Place during sunrise hour

Vancouver is getting a double dose of the beautiful game.

The Canadian Premier League (CPL) has announced it has awarded an expansion club to SixFive Sports & Entertainment in the Vancouver, B.C area.

The ninth club in Canada’s top professional soccer league, the franchise will debut in the 2023 season.

Currently, the city of Vancouver already has a soccer franchise via the Vancouver Whitecaps.

They play in Major League Soccer (MLS) – the second-most highly-regarded North American pro league behind Mexico’s.

But despite the CPL’s infancy (est. 2017), CPL commissioner, David Clanachan, sees no problem with the double-dip.

“Not only is it great for soccer in Canada, I think it’s great for the Canadian Premier League,” said Clanachan

“I think it’s great for all our fans and supporters. And for everything we’re trying to build. For me, every time we take a step forward, it’s not only a step forward; it’s a step upward.”

SixFive to manage Vancouver’s new CPL franchise

Making the deal possible is SixFive – a Canadian-based investment fund that seeks a global portfolio of professional sports teams.

The group also owns Pacific FC – another CPL team based out of Langford, B.C.

Beyond that, SixFive comes with on-the-pitch soccer-specific knowledge.

Its general partners – amongst others – are former Canadian national team members and European pros, Rob Friend and Josh Simpson.

According to Clanachan, the pair will manage the Pacific franchise.

Meanwhile, Dean Shillington – another SixFive investment partner – will manage the Vancouver team.

“We’re quite excited to use what we’ve learned through Pacific, add Vancouver to the mix and then hand the whole thing off to the supporters and community to take it from there,” said Shillington.

Whitecaps and CPL franchise to share city, not stadiums

While the CPL came to be in 2017, official competitions under its banner didn’t start until two years later. Since then, the league has experienced steady growth, adding Atlético Ottawa in 2020.

Vancouver will be the ninth addition to the league.

Unfortunately, it’s up against the established brand of the MLS in the west coast market. Granted, the MLS’ Whitecaps are relatively new, only entering the league ten years ago. But the MLS has been around for a quarter-century now.

CPL supporters would perhaps counter that point with Toronto’s MLS – EPL dynamic.

There, MLS’ Toronto FC and CPL’s York United FC co-exist in close quarters. York FC plays out of York University; Toronto FC at BMO Field.

“We are currently speaking to several municipalities about a location and a potential new stadium for this club’s home pitch,” said Shillington.

Canadian soccer continues to grow

Besides Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps, the MLS – with 27 teams total – also features FC Montreal.

The demand – and sustainability – for soccer in big Canadian markets appears to be there. But there are other indicators across the country, too.

Recently OneSoccer – a specialty channel – was picked up by Telus’ networks, making for greater visibility. Canada’s senior men’s national team also appears to be headed in the right direction.

Alphonso Davis – raised in Edmonton – has emerged as one of the top left-backs in the world. That – in part – has helped Team Canada get on pace to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Meanwhile, the women’s program has long been a powerhouse internationally.

Female participation in Canada is routinely amongst the higher numbers in the country for youth sports. All things considered, then, the CPL, SixFive and its Vancouver franchise appear to be moving in the right direction.

Photo by Shutterstock/Anton Uralev
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Jose Colorado

Jose Colorado is a British Columbia-based writer. He lives in Burnaby and loves sports, anime, writing, business and the occasional walk on the beach.

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