Canadian Premier League announces downward player movement pilot project
Canadian Premier League

The Canadian Premier League today announced a pilot project that will allow its players to earn competitive minutes in League1 Canada competitions, or other designated lower divisions across the country, while signed to a CPL roster.

The pilot project, approved by Canada Soccer, allows all eight of the CPL’s member clubs to affiliate with one team in either League1 Ontario, League1 BC, Ligue1 Québec, League1 Alberta Exhibition Series, Alberta Men’s Soccer League, USL League Two and the top men’s leagues in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. 

CPL clubs may then move their professional players down to their designated affiliate club, to earn additional playing time in competitive matches. There is no upward movement from affiliate clubs to the CPL as part of the pilot project.

The pilot project is intended to improve player development within the Canadian soccer pyramid by ensuring CPL players have various opportunities to earn valuable match experience. 

“It is common in professional soccer for the lion’s share of first-team minutes to be played by about two thirds of a team’s roster,” said Mark Noonan, Commissioner, Canadian Premier League. “By implementing this pilot project, we intend to maximize the benefits of the ever-improving pathway between amateur and professional men’s soccer in Canada, ensuring all our CPL players, especially those under the age of 23, get the consistent competitive game time that is critical to their growth, as well as the growth of the overall pool of players in our country.” 

A comprehensive review of the project will be conducted following the conclusion of the 2023 CPL season to ensure it is making a positive impact on player development and competitiveness within sport and to determine whether it is a viable long-term solution that enables all rostered CPL players to log such important minutes.

There is no limit on the total number of players a CPL club can send to its affiliate per year. A maximum of two outfield players and one goalkeeper can be moved down to an affiliate club at any given time.

Players aged 23 or older may only appear in three games for an affiliate club per year, and only one player aged 23 or older can be moved down at any given time. There is no match limit for players under the age of 23. Minutes earned by under-21 CPL players in lower division play do not count toward the League’s under-21 minutes threshold.

CPL players on loan in the League are not eligible to play in a lower division. CPL players may not appear in any Canadian Championship games or any post-season games for their affiliate club.

Five of the CPL’s member clubs have already established their affiliate club relationship ahead of the 2023 season:

  • York United FC: Alliance United FC (League1 Ontario)
  • Forge FC: Sigma FC (League1 Ontario)
  • Cavalry FC: Cavalry FC U21 (Alberta Men’s Soccer League, League1 Alberta Exhibition Series)
  • Vancouver FC: Unity FC (League1 BC) 
  • Pacific FC: Nautsa’mawt FC (League1 BC) 

Halifax Wanderers FC, Valour FC and Atlético Ottawa can affiliate with one club in any of the designated leagues at any point in the 2023 season.