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We’re Getting a Better Idea of What the Canadian Premier League Will Look Like

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Come join the trademark speculation game!

FC Edmonton v Vancouver Whitecaps Photo by Nick Didlick/Getty Images

As the Canadian Premier League marches towards its 2019 debut, we’re starting to get a better idea of what the league is going to look like.

With 10-teams slated to make their debut next year, it leaked last week that CPL has trademarked six names, giving eagle-eyed observers a good sense of which markets will get an expansion team.

Those marks include “Calgary FC,” “Port City FC,” “HWFC,” “Cavalry FC,” “York 9 FC” and “Founders FC.” This comes on top of a previous trademark of “BCFC” (presumably British Columbia FC in Surrey or Victoria) and the already announced teams in Hamilton and Winnipeg.

Before we dive into some of the other CPL related news, let’s take some guesses as to what these all mean. Calgary FC is obvious and comes as little surprise, as observers have long expected Canada’s fourth-largest market to receive a team. It also seems as if Cavalry FC is another potential name for the Calgary side, given the fact that the city’s CFL team is the Stampeders (and Calgary Sports and Entertainment would be the owner of both the Flames, Stampeders and the CPL team) and Cow Town’s obvious horse related legacy.

Port City seems to be another name for one of British Columbia’s debut sides, either in Surrey or Victoria. Both of these markets also make sense, as CPL attempts to provide an alternative to the Whitecaps. Either team would have some success trying to pick off fans who are dissatisfied with the Caps or who have a hike to BC Place (per Google Maps Surrey is allegedly 35 minutes from downtown but that length could potentially triple in rush hour traffic and Victoria is obviously a ferry ride away).

I’ve also seen theories floated on the interwebs that Port City refers to St. John’s or Moncton. Giving Newfoundland or New Brunswick a team would likely serve a similar purpose as Halifax, which I discuss below: neither city has a professional sports team outside of hockey and both would allow the league to draw support from across an entire province. But your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not

My theory is HWFC is a Halifax-based outfit, in an effort to reach the currently untapped Atlantic soccer market. The 13th biggest metropolitan area in the country, Halifax would be able to pull support from much of the region as the only professional sports team around. The city has a junior hockey league side which is quite popular and has long been rumored as a potential CFL site but a CPL team would instantly make a big splash on the local sports scene.

York 9 FC presumably is the rumored team in the Toronto suburbs, a move which would allow the league to pull support from Toronto FC in the sprawling environs of Canada’s largest city, as well from further afield in Ontario. Given TFC’s recent run of success, it remains to be seen whether this move would work but it seems logical that the league would want some presence in the biggest media market as it tries to find its sea legs. It has been rumored that former TFC captain Jimmy Brennan is involved in bringing a team to York.

As to what Founders FC means, your guess is as good as mine. Markets that seem to be good bets for a CPL team include Regina, Saskatoon and Kitchener, although Founders doesn’t seem to really fit any of those cities.

It’s worth stating the obvious that trademarking a name means nothing official. It’s common for leagues or ownership groups to file paperwork on virtually every conceivable iteration of a potential team name merely to cover their bases. But this legal rigamarole does give an interesting bit of insight as to which markets are further along in their development (and may be closer to being in line for an official announcement) than others.

But there is even more information for CPL geeks to chew over. First and foremost is the apparent reincarnation of FC Edmonton, which dropped out of the NASL last year because of the high costs. The club was perennially hamstrung by being the northernmost club in North American club soccer (and the high travel costs this involved) but had seen a growth in popularity, making the city a good bet for CPL success.

The club looking to fill the gap of FC Edmonton appears to be FC Edmonton. The Edmonton City Council is reviewing a proposal to expand Clarke Stadium to serve as the home of a CPL team owned by the Fath Group, which formerly owned the NASL club. Tom Fath said the renovations of Clarke Stadium are based on recommendations set forth by the CPL itself and that the league is targeting a return to the city.

““(The league) would like to wind up being in Edmonton for sure,” Fath said. “We’ve got some interest in it, and we’ve said that before but it’s going to be something sustainable, of course, and part of that is to have the right facility.”

The decision makes sense for the club, as it would create logical derbies with Calgary and Winnipeg-based clubs, as well as reduce costs. But there are other considerations, including how renovating Clarke would affect the viability of the city’s CFL team, as well as the usual host of political concerns that accompany stadium issues.

Finally, while the league attempts to figure out its structure on the pitch, the backroom shape of the CPL has already taken shape. The league is going to roll out Canadian Soccer Business, which will function much like MLS’ Soccer United Marketing to promote and pump money into the CPL. While SUM has come under fire in the U.S., boosters in Canada believe the CSB will make the league attractive to new ownership groups and there is little doubt that it sets it apart from previous attempts to establish a top-flight league in the country.

““For us, the CSB is that vehicle that allows the owner to contemplate a long-term commitment to the league because they’re investing in more than just a team,” CSB CEO Scott Mitchell told PostMedia. “They’re investing in a soccer entity they think has great growth value.”

The CSB will handle marketing for the 10 inaugural clubs, as well as the league’s corporate deals and broadcast rights and, potentially significant for the Whitecaps, the Canadian Championship, which will be set for a boost with the arrival of the CPL.

Much is left to be decided but it clearer than ever to envision what Canada’s brand, shiny new top-flight league will look like next year. Let us know in the comments what you think of these developments and whether you’ll be tuning in when the CPL takes the field in 2019.