Larson: CPL’s biggest day about more than a league

TORONTO — On a day that could have been about himself, or for Forge FC, or for the Canadian Premier League, Bob Young credited everyone else.

“This day is only possible thanks to the unwavering support of soccer fans across Canada,” Young wrote back on May 6, 2017, the day that Forge FC – his own club – was officially sanctioned as a professional outfit by Canada Soccer.

It was a day that ultimately paved the way for everything else – the CPL’s Open Trials, nearly 200 player signings, new soccer stadiums, and countless stories, dreams, and visions — in the lead up to the league’s inaugural match 52 days from now.

And, just as he did two years ago, Bob Young – Caretaker Bob, as he’s affectionately known – is giving April 27 to Forge FC fans, the City of Hamilton and to Canadian soccer supporters who he understands are the cornerstone of building a league that’s owned by Canadians; a league that’s living up to its promise of uniting a burgeoning soccer nation and building from the ground up in a way that embodies what it means to be Canadian.

Forge’s recently-announced “Soccer Unites Hamilton” initiative does more than provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; it also fulfills the CPL’s promise to be authentic in providing a product that truly is community-based – a product that is about so much more than a business.

The Hamilton-based club revealed Wednesday its plan to pack Tim Hortons Field by extending an open invitation to anyone who wants to experience one of the biggest moments in Canadian soccer history.

That’s right. The match is entirely free.

It’s an opportunity for the community at large to join Forge FC’s growing list of Co-Founders in a push to make the CPL’s inaugural match the most-attended event in Tim Hortons Field history.

It’s an equal chance for an entire citizenry to be able to say “I was there” when Canadian soccer changed forever.

It’s the moment Canadian soccer fans have anticipated since whispers of a top-tier Canadian league originated in Steeltown more than five years ago, a moment that, for Young, brings everything full circle.

In a North American sporting landscape often dominated by absent owners and leagues that don’t pander to their biggest stakeholders, the “Soccer Unites Hamilton” effort offers further proof the CPL intends to follow through on its mantra: A league that’s built for Canadians, by Canadians.

Between hosting both the opening of Canada’s newest league and the finale of its longest-running league, Hamilton is poised to be more than the focal point of Canadian sports in 2019. Forge FC, too, is on a path to affirming its brand as a club that represents the community’s past, as well as its commitment to advancement – to the forging of a new path in a city that’s emerging with its new demographics and a fresh mentality.

Most of all, the “Soccer Unites Hamilton” initiative offers an equal opportunity for everyone to experience the passion and energy and grassroots feel soccer supporters bring to the stadium, all while giving back to their community.

As the league’s seven Founding Clubs convene across the country for pre-season this week, the folks in Hamilton today are preparing for what promises to be one of the most electric atmospheres in their stadium’s history.

Where will you be when the gates open on April 27, a day that promises to be about every single proud Canadian?