Let’s face it: Canada’s vast size was a major factor in the Canadian Premier League’s first season.
Clubs faced difficult road trips that sent players and coaches on multiple cross-Canada flights in a matter of weeks. Fatigue and injuries followed as all seven sides struggled through many parts of Year 1.
But the release of the 2020 CPL schedule on Friday offers something different, namely a balanced schedule (thanks to Atlético Ottawa coming aboard), in which clubs are set to play each other four times – twice at home, twice on the road. It’s simple, just like the three-team playoff and single-table format.
It also promises to lessen the burden of travel with several factors, including Ottawa’s inclusion, Friday night football, less midweek games, and a spread of matches over the 175 regular season days.
Travel time, distance reduced 10% year-over-year for CPL clubs
Long, difficult road trips marred CPL clubs in 2019. In Year 2, things will be a bit different.
When tallied, the 2020 schedule means nearly 432,000 kilometres of travel – in the air or on the ground – for the eight clubs for an average of 54,000 kilometres over a 14-match away docket.
Is that a lot of travel? Yes. But it’s less than 2019, believe it or not. Clubs averaged over 60,000 kilometres of travel according to last year’s tally, marking a 10 per cent reduction in the club-by-club burden on making away matches.
The reduced travel time averages out to about six hours per club. While it’s not a big number, CPL players and coaches won’t be complaining.
HFX Wanderers are once again the CPL’s most-travelled team, set to cover a whopping 66,000 kilometres across 14 away matches in 2020. Incredibly, that total is down 5,000 kilometres from the over 71,000 kilometres logged last season.
Stephen Hart’s side was the victim of fixture congestion (more on that later) in 2019, specifically during a five-match run in July which ended in a 6-2 drubbing at York9 FC. Plus, they also made the 4,227 kilometre trek to Van Isle – the third-longest top-flight road trip in world football – a staggering three times. They’ll only have to make the trip twice in 2020.
Speaking of Pacific FC, the Tridents are poised to travel the second-most in 2020 with a 58,310 kilometre total that falls just ahead of fellow Western Canadian sides FC Edmonton and Cavalry.
Newcomer Atlético Ottawa’s 50,000 kilometre travel itinerary was greatly reduced by 2020’s balanced schedule as four road matches await just five-hours away in southern Ontario against Forge FC and York9 FC. Of course, those 905 Derby opponents have the least impactful travel travel-wise, hovering around 48,000 kilometres or a quarter of the Wanderers’ regular-season total.
Total Kilometres Per CPL Club in 2020: 1. HFX Wanderers FC – 66,604 km 2. Pacific FC – 58,310 km 3. FC Edmonton – 57,180 km 4. Cavalry FC – 57,046 km 5. Atlético Ottawa – 50,756 km 6. Valour FC – 46,316 km 7. Forge FC – 48,126 km 8. York9 FC – 47,778 km
Fewer double-upped match-weeks give CPL teams breathing room
The “four-match fortnight” won’t be back for 2020.
Fixture congestion and multiple multi-game match-weeks that dogged CPL clubs in 2019 – Halifax’s aforementioned seven-match run in just over three weeks comes to mind – have been greatly reduced in 2020.
Most CPL clubs will play twice in the same match-week only a handful of times this season, as only seven match dates fall between Monday and Friday. This is directly connected to league officials scheduling 90 per cent of matches on weekends or holidays, something that was addressed by commissioner David Clanachan.
“When I grew up, when I was a young lad, my grandfather took me to games, and it was always a Saturday afternoon,” Clanachan said. “We, in this country, as we build this new league and the game here, we need to find ways to help supporters create their own traditions. The idea around Friday night does that. It’s always going to be a good night out.”
This will be a welcome respite for CPL coaches who struggled with player fitness, match preparation, and finding time for quality training during, particularly intense stretches. It promises to be better for fans too, as away teams are set to be healthier and better prepared on the road leading to more intense games.