TORONTO — The Canadian Premier League is headed to Charlottetown for a truncated 2020 season dubbed the Island Games.
The eight-team league will start play Aug. 13 at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) Alumni Field. The 35-game season will wrap up in September.
The 28-game first phase will see each of the teams play each other once. The top four clubs will then advance and meet in the second round. The top two clubs will meet in the championship game.
Charlottetown won the right to serve as host for the Canadian league’s second season over Langford, B.C., and Moncton, N.B.
Some 300 players, staff, officials and broadcast personnel will converge on Charlottetown, where the CPL will form its own bubble inside the Atlantic Canada bubble.
"No one outside the event can enter the bubble without going through the same quarantine and testing protocols that everybody else has," commissioner David Clanachan said in an interview Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, P.E.I. had reported 36 total COVID cases with no deaths.
The province requires visitors from outside Atlantic Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Clanachan said the CPL travelling party has already started self-isolation at home and will do an additional five days when its charters land Aug. 8.
"It’s actually more than the 14 days when you add the two together," said Clanachan.
The league’s health and safety protocols have been approved by P.E.I.’s chief public health office.
Players and coaches have already been tested for COVID-19, with all tests coming back negative. There will be another round of tests before the group travels, with two more tests planned during the five-day self-isolation upon arrival.
Testing will continue throughout the tournament, as well as temperature and other checks.
"We’re using this to create a database, which will be very interesting, and we’re sharing that database with the province," Clanachan said.
The league is taking over the Delta Hotels Prince Edward on the Charlottetown waterfront.
"The hotel is completely locked down for the CPL event, including the convention centre, including all the property around the hotel as well," Clanachan said.
The Island Games will open with a rematch of last season’s final between champion Forge FC and Calgary’s Cavalry FC. The full schedule will be released at a later date.
Other teams taking part are HFX Wanderers FC, York 9 FC, Valour FC, FC Edmonton, Pacific FC and expansion Atletico Ottawa.
The CPL’s original schedule was to have started April 11 and conclude on Oct. 4 with teams playing a 28-game schedule. The regular-season winner was to advance to the championship game, with the second- and third-place teams to face off to decide the other finalist.
The UPEI venue features a FIFA-certified artificial turf field that was resurfaced in August 2016 and has the lighting to host night games.
The league said there may be some spectators — in the form of an "exclusive fan zone" for minor soccer players — if regulations and conditions permit.
"You’d love to do if you could," said Clanachan.
While players are able to opt out, no one has yet, said Clanachan. The players joined owners and clubs in approving the league’s restart plan.
"The players are excited," he added. "Horses want to run. Soccer players want to play soccer. That’s what it really boils down to."
P.E.I. welcomed the news.
"We believe Prince Edward Island is the best place in the country to safely host the Canadian Premier League and we are so proud to receive this special opportunity," Matthew MacKay, P.E.I.’s economic growth, tourism and culture minister, said in a statement.
"In these uncertain times, we are committed to doing everything we can to stimulate our provincial economy while following the mandated public health protocols, and market our Island as a premier travel destination, so that when the time is right, we can welcome visitors to Prince Edward Island."
Clanachan said the league, which had asked the federal government for "short-term financing" of $15 million to survive the pandemic, is receiving assistance from the P.E.I government.
"They stepped up and they helped us … with the hotel and some of the areas from a cost perspective," said Clanachan.
"They also came forward with some actual funding," he added.
In return, the province will be showcased on the game broadcasts. All the games will be shown on Onesoccer.ca with other networks possibly involved, the commissioner said.
As with other leagues during their restart, the CPL will allows teams to use five substitutes.
"We think it’s a great rule," said Clanachan.
He said it would help more young Canadians to see the field while managing playing time and possibly prevent injuries.