'A lot of boxes we have to tick': CPL teams prepare for home market schedule

The Canadian Premier League matchday ball, pictured above. (Aaron Lynett/CP)

York United FC now has a schedule of games for its newly renovated home at York University in Toronto.

But plenty of work remains for the club's CEO and general manager Angus McNab between now and July 30, when York United returns home to host defending champion Forge FC at York Lions Stadium.

"There are a lot of logistical pieces we have to get right," McNab said. "There are a lot of boxes we have to tick for entry, exit of buildings, gathering of people, restrictions around food and beverage.

"All of this stuff that we now have to put together in relatively short order ... But we are doing absolutely everything possible to ensure that we can be back with fans in stands, but ultimately to do it safely and to do it so that we continue the province's path to fully reopening and getting through this."

The Canadian Premier League announced the home-market portion of its schedule on Monday, with teams set to play 20 more matches each through the end of the regular season on Nov. 6.

The third-year league kicked off its pandemic-delayed season on June 26, starting with a month's worth of games all in Winnipeg under a protective COVID-19 bubble.

The Manitoba capital is hosting the first 32 games of the campaign, with each of the eight teams playing eight matches in a stretch that runs through July 24.

After that, teams will play 20 more matches each in an unbalanced schedule -- 16 games against clubs in their region and four more against the remaining teams.

The No. 1 team will then host No. 4 with No. 2 entertaining No. 3 in single-match playoff semifinals. The winners will square off in the championship game.

The league says attendance in all home markets will be based on their provincial public health and safety guidelines.

In addition to the York-Forge match on July 30, Pacific FC will host Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium. FC Edmonton will entertain Valour FC the next day at Clarke Stadium.

HFX Wanderers FC will host Atletico Ottawa on Aug. 2 at Wanderers Ground, with Cavalry FC entertaining FC Edmonton on Aug. 3 at Spruce Meadows. Forge FC's home opener at Tim Hortons Field is Aug. 8 against Ottawa.

Atletico Ottawa will play its first home game at TD Place on Aug. 14 against HFX Wanderers FC. Valour FC's home opener is Aug. 16 against Pacific FC at IG Field.

York, which was known as York 9 FC before this season, will play out of a refurbished York Lions Stadium. The running track has been removed, bringing the action closer to the fans, and the natural grass has been replaced by a FIFA-quality artificial surface with a larger playing area.

"We have a very young squad and a very athletic dynamic team, so actually playing on a slightly larger field is great for us," McNab said.

The $8.2-million upgrade includes an air-supported dome that will allow the field to be used in winter.

McNab said full capacity this season will be around 3,250 to 3,500. Masks will probably be mandated, allowing the team to operate at 75 per cent capacity, said McNab, whose team will be testing out Friday night home games this season

The CPL had hoped to begin play May 22 on the Victoria Day long weekend, but announced in late April that it was pushing back the start due to the pandemic.

Last year, the CPL's second season turned into a truncated Island Games tournament based out of Charlottetown.

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