2023 CPL Competition Guidelines

as of April 15th, 2023

The following is a series of excerpts and summary interpretations from the official CPL Competitions Manual and CPL Operations Manual that formally govern play within the CPL.

  1. Competition Outline
  2. Tie Breaker
  3. Game Clock
  4. Disciplinary Protocol

Competition Outline


Eight Clubs will compete in the 2023 League Season: 

Atlético Ottawa 

Cavalry FC

Forge FC

Halifax Wanderers FC

Pacific FC

Valour FC

Vancouver FC

York United FC

CPL Regular Season

  • Each Club will play a total of 28 matches during the 2023 League Season, 14 at home and 14 away. 
  • The 2023 League Season will begin on April 15, 2023 with the final match day being played on October 7, 2023. 
  • The 2023 League Season will be played under a single table format.
  • Clubs will receive three points for a win, one point for a tie and zero points for a loss. 

Team Standings, Tie Breaking Procedures

If one or more Teams finish the CPL Regular Season with the same number of points, tie breakers will be utilized in the following order: 

  1. Total number of wins 
  2. Goal differential 
  3. Goals for
  4. Away goals differential 
  5. Away goals for 
  6. Home goals differential 
  7. Home goals for 
  8. The Club that accumulates the most U-21 Domestic Player Minutes during the regular Season
  9. Coin toss (tie of two Teams) or drawing of lots (tie of three or more Teams)

Playing Rules

All League matches shall be played in accordance with the rules set by FIFA and the CSA, except for those exceptions authorized by FIFA and the CSA.

Team Benches

Club Benches and the Technical Areas are secure areas for the players and Club technical staff. To ensure a professional Match presentation, a maximum of sixteen (16) individuals are permitted on each Club’s bench. All players and Club personnel permitted in the team area are required to be listed on the Official Match Day Roster:

  • In the team area, up to seven (7) Match Day roster players may sit on each Club’s bench. The additional nine (9) individuals are Club personnel. 
  • Additional support staff are not permitted in the technical area. 
  • A secondary bench area is not permitted.

Game Clock

The stadium clock will start at the moment of kickoff at each half. The clock will count upward from zero (0:00) minutes to forty-five (45:00) minutes in the first half and forty-five (45:00) minutes to ninety (90:00) minutes in the second half. The stadium clock must be stopped at the forty-fifth (45:00) minute at the conclusion of the first half and the ninetieth (90:00) minute at the conclusion of the second half. The Fourth Official will indicate the amount of added time to be played in each half using the electronic substitution board or the manual substitution paddles. The stadium clock will not display added time. The added time will only be kept on the field by the Referee. At the conclusion of the first half, the stadium clock will be set to fifteen (15:00) minutes.

Mandatory Hydration Breaks

If the wet bulb globe temperature measures twenty-seven (27) degrees Celsius or higher, the CPL requires that hydration breaks be integrated into the match. The determination for hydration breaks is made by the Referee prior to the start of each half. Once the Teams have been informed, the break will occur and will be managed at the discretion of the Referee.

Officiating and Disciplinary Protocol

Referees: All CPL referees are Canada Soccer (CSA) registered match officials, who are trained, assigned and evaluated by CSA.

CPL Disciplinary Committee: For the 2023 League Season, the CSA will handle on-field and certain other disciplinary matters for CPL. The CPL League Office and individual Clubs also have disciplinary authority over certain other conduct matters for club staff and players.

Regular Season Cautions and Suspensions

Where a player accumulates four (4) yellow card cautions, the player will be suspended automatically, with immediate effect, for one (1) match. A player who has already been subject to disciplinary action as a result of accumulating four (4) yellow card cautions and then goes on to accumulate further yellow card cautions during the same season, will be subject to the following punishments:

A player who accumulates eight (8) yellow card cautions will receive a two (2) match suspension; a player who accumulates twelve (12) yellow card cautions will receive a three (3) match suspension. Should a player receive fifteen (15) yellow card cautions in the same season they shall be required to attend a meeting of the Disciplinary Panel Committee whose sanctions may include, but are not limited to; reprimand, suspension, financial penalties, or additional sanctions.

Good Behaviour Incentive

Where a player plays in five (5) consecutive league matches without receiving a yellow card, red card, or other discipline sanction arising during such matches, they may automatically reduce the yellow card accumulation total by one yellow card.

New for 2023 season: The “Good Behaviour Incentive” has been updated to begin after a player’s first yellow card, instead of after a player’s third yellow card. The incentive will now also apply up to a maximum of two (2) times in a season instead of only once, however the caution accumulation total can only reset to zero at the lowest and never a negative number. This does not apply to cautions received in the Canadian Championship. For the avoidance of doubt “plays” means actually enters the field of play either as a starter or a substitute. Further if the consecutive run is broken for any reason the five count starts again from the next time the player plays.

Coaches, Team Officials, Club Staff Members

If a Team Official accumulates two (2) cautions they will be automatically issued a monetary fine. A Team Official who has already been subject to disciplinary action as a result of accumulating two (2) cautions and then goes on to accumulate further cautions in the same season will be subject to the following sanctions:

  1. If a Team Official accumulates three (3) cautions in senior and/or reserve team league competitions, the Team Official will be suspended automatically with immediate effect from all senior and reserve league matches and open friendly matches, until such time as the Team Official has missed their club’s next one (1) senior team match in approved competitions.
  2. If a Team Official accumulates four (4) cautions in senior and/or reserve team league competitions, they will be suspended automatically until they have missed their club’s next two (2) senior team matches in approved competitions.
  3. If a Team Official accumulates more than four (4) cautions in senior and/or reserve team league competitions in the same season they will be required to attend a meeting of the Disciplinary Panel, which shall have the power to deal with the Team Official in such manner as they deem fit. The same procedure will apply for every further caution recorded against a Team Official.

A Match Suspension is defined as a ban on taking part in a match and on premise in the area immediately surrounding the field-of-play. The area immediately surrounding the field-of-play includes:

  • The field-of-play.
  • The dressing rooms and their immediate area.
  • The tunnel and/or private way leading from the dressing rooms to the field-of-play.
  • The dugouts, benches and technical areas.
  • The prohibited area in the vicinity of the touchline and goal lines.

Players or technical staff and officials, including the Head Coach, under suspension are not to be included in the List of Officials in the technical area.  In addition, a player or team official under a Match Suspension is prohibited from contact with match officials, players and club officials, as well as giving any media interviews, before, during or after the match.

CPL Playoffs Caution Accumulation Reset

New for the 2023 season: Caution accumulation will reset at the conclusion of the regular season, meaning all caution accumulation suspensions will not carry over from the regular season to the playoffs.