2023 CPL Schedule: 10 dates to circle on your calendar

With anticipation for the Canadian Premier League’s fifth season building, the 2023 regular season schedule was revealed in its entirety on Monday.

The season will begin on April 15, with Atlético Ottawa taking on Halifax Wanderers. Soon after will follow Vancouver FC’s inaugural match: a visit to fellow British Columbian side Pacific FC to finish up a three-game slate on opening day. Each team will play 28 times in the regular season, culminating on Oct. 7 with a doubleheader featuring Forge FC vs Atlético Ottawa and Cavalry FC vs Pacific FC, before the yet-to-be-announced playoff schedule begins.

Here are ten dates for CPL fans to circle on their calendars, listed in chronological order.

RELATED READING: 2023 CPL Schedule: Club-by-club breakdown of the fixture list || By the numbers: A look at the CPL’s 2023 regular season schedule

April 15: Opening day triple-header ft. B.C. Derby

The 2023 season will kick off on Saturday, April 15 with a CPL triple-header, including the first all-British Columbia match in Canadian Premier League history, as expansion team Vancouver FC travels to the Island to take on Pacific FC.

Already an exciting occasion as we see the CPL’s newest club take the pitch for the first time, the excitement around this fixture only increases because of the local bragging rights being on the line as well. It’s likely that some VFC fans and neutral supporters of B.C. soccer will head to Starlight Stadium to check out this match as well, only adding to the atmosphere at the home of the 2021 CPL champions.

A nickname for the derby hasn’t been coined yet, but the Salish Sea Derby and Sea-to-Sky Derby have proven popular when Pacific’s Josh Heard appealed for ideas.

RELATED READING: ‘Pride on the line’: BC Derby between Vancouver FC and Pacific to open 2023 CPL season

April 16: Opening weekend closes with battle of ambitious sides

York United and Valour FC were teams who were in the playoff race until late in the 2022 season, and might have broken into the top four had they not experienced rough patches at crucial parts of the season. Valour’s playoffs hopes all but officially ended at York Lions Stadium in late September when they, with a chance to officially eliminate York and keep piling pressure on the top four, lost 3-1 at the hands of the Nine Stripes.

Phillip Dos Santos’ team have never made the playoffs and will be keen to start the year on the right foot, against Martin Nash’s side who are also looking to get into the final stages of the season for the only the second time in club history. Both teams are ambitious, and these early season points could prove to be useful at the end of the year, so expect an exciting match in round one.

RELATED READING: York United vs. Valour FC to close out CPL’s 2023 opening weekend

May 5: The 905 Derby comes to York Lions Stadium

Everyone loves a derby match, and the 905 Derby between York United and Forge FC is often an entertaining matchup. They’ll meet for the first time this season on May 5 at York Lions Stadium.

Matches between the two are always heated, going back to the very first CPL match on April 27, 2019, where a red card to then-York9 captain Manny Aparicio was among the action in a 1-1 draw at Tim Hortons Field. They met in the 2021 playoffs as well, a match won by the Hammers, who have won 10 of the 17 all-time meetings between the two sides.

Former Forge star Mo Babouli is now back in the CPL with York — arguably the best player in the league for the short time he was with the Nine Stripes in 2022 — only adding to the rivalry.

York United's new signing Mo Babouli (Photo: York United)
York United’s Mo Babouli (Photo: York United)

May 7: Vancouver FC’s first home game

After starting the season with three matches on the road, expansion team Vancouver FC will play their inaugural home game at Langley Events Centre on May 7.

They’ll welcome Cavalry FC to their new home after away games against Pacific FC, York United and the Halifax Wanderers, while Cavalry will have played away against Forge FC and Pacific FC, before hosting Valour FC. With three games under their belt, Vancouver’s identity may start to emerge for Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side to analyze, and the same goes for VFC boss Afshin Ghotbi, who is learning the league for the first time.

May 7 will be a special day for both Vancouver FC and its fans, but also the Canadian Premier League as a whole.

May 13: The third of three action-packed triple-headers

It’s rare to see a triple-header of matches in the Canadian Premier League, but there will be three of them early in 2023. The second one (after opening day) comes in the second week of the season, on April 22, as York, Forge and Valour host Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa, respectively.

The third one comes in mid-May, on matchday five. Forge host Valour FC at 4 p.m. ET in the matinee, before Cavalry host Halifax at 7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. local. The day ends at Langley Events Centre for Vancouver FC’s second-ever home match, which will see them host reigning regular season champions Atlético Ottawa for the first time.

Some early-season excitement is always a good excuse to crowd around the TV and turn on OneSoccer, and a triple-header like that one will have you glued to your screen.

May 27: CPL Final rematch, and a coast-to-coast road trip

One of many Saturday doubleheaders this season, May 27 promises to be one to keep an eye on in particular.

The action starts in Ottawa for a rematch of the 2022 CPL Final between Atlético Ottawa and Forge FC. The match will be played at the site of Forge’s third North Star Shield victory in four seasons last October — and the place where Ottawa’s dream worst-to-first season fell at the final hurdle — TD Place. That will of course be a big storyline going into that game, and if the two teams get off to hot starts, this could be a potential playoff preview between two teams with championship aspirations.

Later that day on the west coast, Pacific FC will host Halifax Wanderers FC in a coast-to-coast clash that always catches the eye. One of the longest away trips for a professional team anywhere in the world, this game is often an exciting one, with the two sides combining for nine goals across their four meetings last season.

As the weather continues to warm up and the second month of the 2023 CPL season begins to come to a close, there’s nothing finer than a CPL doubleheader.

Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis lifts the North Star Shield at TD Place in Ottawa (PHOTO: David Chant/Chant Photography)
Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis lifts the North Star Shield at TD Place in Ottawa (PHOTO: David Chant/Chant Photography)

June 2: Vancouver FC vs Pacific FC at Langley Events Centre

The match at Langley Events Centre on June 2 won’t be the first meeting of Vancouver FC and Pacific FC, but it will be the first meeting between the two on the Lower Mainland.

If their prior meeting on April 14, the date of the season opener between these two sides, lives up to the hype, expect the reverse fixture to be just as exciting. Until that match at Starlight Stadium there will have been no history at all between the two sides, but that’s one of the exciting things about the Canadian Premier League — it’s always being made in such a young league.

Callum Irving is Vancouver’s marquee signing thus far, joining his hometown club after winning a championship with Pacific, and will be looking to one-up his former teammates as he welcomes them to his new surroundings.

July 1: A Canada Day meeting at IG Field

Valour FC will host Cavalry FC in the lone Canada Day game on the schedule this season, at IG Field in Winnipeg.

Around the midpoint of the season, in round 13 of 28, a clearer idea of how teams are performing will start to emerge. There will also, of course, be plenty of football left in the season, but a clash between two teams who have aspirations of making the playoffs could prove to be pivotal in the second half of the season and down the stretch.

Both sides are 0-0-1 when playing on Canada Day. Cavalry lost 3-1 to Pacific FC on a feisty afternoon at Starlight Stadium in 2019, while Valour lost by the same scoreline to York that day, despite scoring in the first minute of the match.

August 7: Holiday Monday football in Halifax

Natal Day, observed on the first Monday of August each year, is an annual holiday in Nova Scotia to celebrate the birth of the province, and once again the Halifax Wanderers will play at Wanderers Grounds on it. This year it’ll be celebrated on Monday, Aug. 7, when Pacific FC make the aforementioned gruelling journey from coast-to-coast.

Halifax are 2-0-1 when playing on Natal Day, beating Valour FC 1-0 in 2019 and Atlético Ottawa 2-1 in 2021, but falling 4-2 to York United last season in an instant classic.

Depending on how the first two thirds of the season goes for either club, it’s very possible that a playoff race could be brewing by this point, and that three points could be crucial to either teams’ season. Time will tell, but some holiday Monday football at Wanderers Grounds is always a treat regardless.

(Trevor MacMillan/HFX Wanderers FC)
(Trevor MacMillan/HFX Wanderers FC)

October 7: A thrilling doubleheader to end the regular season

On the final day of the regular season, all four of the teams that made the 2022 playoffs (and four of the five teams to make at least one CPL Final) will be involved in a brilliant doubleheader to end the 2023 campaign.

Starting at Tim Hortons Field, Forge FC will host Atlético Ottawa for an afternoon game in Hamilton. Both teams made the final in 2022, and will be looking to reach the championship game in 2023 — Forge for the fifth season on the bounce. The fourth meeting of the season between the two sides, this could be the culmination of a budding CPL rivalry and/or a preview of a playoff match to come.

The same can be said of the second match of the day, at ATCO Field between Cavalry FC and Pacific FC. They have played some feisty matches against each other, including a 3-3 thriller at Starlight Stadium in 2022 that featured two red cards and several rounds of pushing and shoving as two hungry teams battled it out in late June. They also met in the 2020 and 2021 playoffs, the latter game won by Pacific on their way to winning the 2021 North Star Shield — an achievement that has thus far eluded Cavalry.

Good teams on paper facing off? With potential implications for playoff spots or playoff seeding? This has the potential to be one of the most exciting matchdays in CPL history.