Thursday 02 November 2023, 16:00

FIFA Forward strengthens Canada’s national league and player pathway

  • FIFA Forward provides significant funding for the Canadian Premier League

  • Established in 2019, the CPL's milestone fifth season concluded dramatically

  • The league will play a crucial in developing players ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2026™

Football in Canada is enjoying a golden age like never before. The ongoing legacy of hosting the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ continues to deliver an impact. Two years ago, Canada claimed the gold medal at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 - the nation’s first global crown at senior level. The men’s national team are enjoying a similar boom. Canada featured at last year’s FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar - their first appearance for 36 years - and impressed with their quality and modern brand of football. Above all, though, looms the jewel in the crown as Canada prepares to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup along with neighbours USA and Mexico.

As always, a strong and buoyant national league is key to underpinning a strong national team. FIFA support to this new league - aimed at growing the top part of Canada’s football pyramid with a goal to support the national teams’ performance on the international stage - dates as far back as 2017. The Canadian Premier League (CPL) was formed in 2019, and in a continuing demonstration of support, the FIFA Forward 3.0 funding cycle will see USD 2 million invested over the period 2023-2026. FIFA’s funding will go towards the travel, accommodation, and match fees of the league’s referees, as well as supporting the travel and accommodation budgets of the teams. “We are pleased to support CSA and CPL through the FIFA Forward Programme in creating opportunities for Canadian players to excel at the highest levels of domestic football,” said Andrea Pizzati, FIFA Member Associations Regional Coordinator – Americas. “The CPL serves as a crucial component in Canada’s football development pathway and looking back on the last five years, it’s incredible to watch how it has grown and evolved into such an impactful, solid competition.”

As one of the largest countries in the world, and with teams spread from British Columbia on the west coast to Nova Scotia on the east coast, the league faces travel costs and logistical challenges unimaginable in many nations. With five seasons of the CPL now completed - 2020 featured a modified format due to Covid-19 - the next step is for the competition to become fully self-sustaining in the lead up to, and beyond, the FIFA World Cup 2026. Currently all player contracts, marketing, ticketing, sponsorship, communications, and league operations are regulated and driven centrally to ensure a consistent operating standard and a viable and sustainable end product. Despite still being in its fledgling period, two CPL alumni featured in Canada’s squad for Qatar 2022, while six current players featured in the nation’s most recent U-20 squad. Those dividends have partly been achieved by the league stipulation that all clubs must field U-21 players for at least 2,000 minutes during the season. CPL clubs have also competed in the Concacaf Champions League since 2021, with the Hamilton-based Forge FC reaching the Round of 16 last year to earn a memorable match-up against Mexican heavyweights Cruz Azul.

Continuing to build a sustainable player pipeline for our national teams is a key priority. That’s why we’re proud of our investment through FIFA Forward, a partnership which plays a crucial role in the league’s growth and sustainability."

Canada Soccer Secretary General, Jason de Vos.

"This was a banner year for the Canadian Premier League,” said Commissioner, Mark Noonan. “We are proud to have set a new standard during our most competitive year to date on the field and most successful off it. As a league this season, we experienced more parity than ever before, continued our focus on developing domestic players, established a new league-record transfer fee, saw attendance numbers soar and set records in many other key areas of our business. “We are excited to continue working alongside our partners at FIFA, Concacaf and Canada Soccer to build a league that Canadians from coast to coast can loudly and proudly call their own, a place where young domestic players can pursue their dreams and where communities can congregate around our beautiful game. We know the best is yet to come." The 2023 season concluded spectacularly on Saturday 28 October with nearly 14,000 spectators on hand to see Forge FC maintain their stranglehold on the competition, albeit by the narrowest of margins. Forge FC came from behind to overcome rivals Cavalry FC in stunning fashion as Tristan Borges' outrageous extra-time ‘Olimpico’ delivered a 2-1 victory and a fourth crown for The Hammers.

Now with the world governing body’s ongoing support, there is an opportunity to build further upon the tremendous platform already in place ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2026, a view shared by Canada Soccer Secretary General, Jason de Vos. “Congratulations to our partners at the Canadian Premier League for an exciting finish to an already historic fifth season,” said the former centre back who was capped 49 times for Canada. “Continuing to build a sustainable player pipeline for our national teams is a key priority for us and that is why we are proud of our investment through the FIFA Forward Program. This partnership has played a crucial role in the league’s growth and sustainability, and it is great to see communities across our country continue to support our sport nationally.”

Discover more

Find out about FIFA Forward's background and proposition.

The core principles

Find out more about the FIFA Forward core principles.

Programme history

Explore the history of the FIFA Forward Programme since the first edition in 2016.