Clinch/Elimination Scenarios: Cavalry punch playoff ticket, Pacific could follow suit in Week 23

Seventeen matches and just four weekends remain in the 2023 Canadian Premier League regular season, which means we’ve reached the part of the year where math gets involved.

With the two midweek games of matchweek 23 complete, all eight teams remain technically alive in the race for the top five (for anybody needing a reminder of this year’s new playoff format, click here).

That could change very quickly, though. Here’s a brief run-through of where things stand for some teams near the top and bottom of the table and how they could either clinch their playoff spot or be officially eliminated this weekend. Of course, the caveat: all teams have to hit the 2,000 U-21 minutes threshold to be eligible for the playoffs. Currently, Vancouver, Valour and Pacific have hit the mark, with the other five teams on track to get there by the end of the year.

A reminder of the table, first:

x – Clinched playoff spot

Tiebreaker rules are available here.

Cavalry FC: Playoffs already clinched; title will have to wait

It turns out that, due to Cavalry’s win on Tuesday night over Halifax Wanderers, the current league leaders have become the first side to officially book a trip to the postseason.

The Cavs have 43 points. Although, technically, all three of Atlético Ottawa, Halifax and York United can pass that total with either 45 or 44 (in the case of York), it’s impossible for all of them to do so because both the Wanderers and York play another game against Ottawa. In other words, if two of those three sides pass Cavalry’s total, the third team cannot, since it’s impossible for all of them to win each of their four remaining games and hit that maximum. Therefore, the worst Cavalry can finish is fifth.

For those wondering, on Wednesday morning there was technically a scenario where Cavalry could have won the regular season title this weekend. However, that would have required Pacific to lose to Atlético Ottawa (which they didn’t), and then lose to York on Sunday, along with Cavalry beating Vancouver and Forge losing at Valour. Now, even if Cavalry win on Saturday and get to 46, and Pacific lose to York, the Tridents could theoretically win out and get to 46 points and 12 wins — therefore giving them a shot at passing the Cavs on goal differential.

We’ll get more specific on the math for that next week, but at this stage it remains possible for Cavalry to win the title the following weekend when they play at York United.

Pacific FC: Could seal playoff berth this weekend

The next side to join Cavalry in the October festivities might be Pacific. They only picked up one point in Ottawa on Wednesday, which they were somewhat disappointed by as they chase the regular season title, but nonetheless it helped edge them a little closer to a guaranteed playoff spot.

Pacific FC will clinch a playoff spot if:

  • Pacific FC win vs. York United

  • Halifax Wanderers win vs. Atlético Ottawa

That scenario would put Pacific on 40 points, Ottawa on 33, and York on 32 with three games to go. Thanks to the York-Ottawa fixture on Oct. 1, only one of those two sides could pass 40 points in that scenario. So, they couldn’t both pass Pacific, meaning the Tridents would be playoff bound once again.

Valour FC: Still alive, but margins getting slimmer

The good news for Valour is that they can remain alive by their own volition this weekend. If they beat Forge at home, or even keep them to a draw, there’s no combination of other results that would eliminate them.

However, if they lose to Forge, they’ll be in trouble. The loss alone wouldn’t do it — they would be able to get to 35 points and nine wins — but if York United beat Pacific later that afternoon, and Halifax versus Ottawa doesn’t end in a draw, the Winnipeg club will be unable to reach the top five.

Valour FC will be eliminated from playoff contention if:

  • Valour FC lose vs. Forge FC

  • York United win vs. Pacific FC


  • Either Halifax Wanderers or Atlético Ottawa win their matchup

A draw between the Wanderers and Atleti would probably keep Valour — barely — alive, because it would leave each side on 34 points, meaning York could pull ahead by beating Ottawa the week after and Valour could get into fifth.

Vancouver FC: Perfect storm required to avoid elimination

The simplest way to put it: Vancouver are in must-win mode at all times, and they’ll need some help from other teams.

If they lose in Calgary on Saturday, they’re mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, because they’ll be 13 points behind fifth place with only 12 left available to them.

If VFC draw and get to 21 points, things get more complicated. Their maximum would then be 33 points and nine wins — identical to Ottawa’s current total and better than Halifax or York. If Atleti were to win in Halifax this weekend and York were to lose or draw against Pacific, Vancouver would remain alive, and could in theory make the playoffs if they win out and Halifax and York lose their remaining games (though goal difference would make that tricky).

And if Vancouver win? They might well live to fight another day. With 23 points and a maximum of 35, they should remain mathematically alive, unless both Halifax and York win. In that scenario, the Wanderers would be out of reach with 36 points, and either York or Ottawa would be guaranteed to hit at least 36 because they play each other again.

Vancouver FC will be eliminated from playoff contention if:

  • Vancouver FC lose vs. Cavalry FC
  • Vancouver FC draw vs. Cavalry FC
  • Vancouver FC win vs. Cavalry FC

  • Halifax Wanderers win or draw vs. Atlético Ottawa


  • York United win vs. Pacific FC

  • Halifax Wanderers win vs. Atlético Ottawa


  • York United win vs. Pacific FC

So, if you’re an eternal optimist in Vancouver, certainly cheer for your team to win, but you should also probably root for Atlético Ottawa, and — if you can stomach it — Pacific.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine does.

Regardless, we’ll soon have a much clearer picture of which five teams are playoff-bound. The tightest race in football right now will continue to deliver drama over the next few weeks, beginning this weekend.

A reminder of this weekend’s schedule, all of which is available to watch on OneSoccer: