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CPL corner (matchday 1) by Brett Lubkiwski

Matchday 1 has come and gone in the Canadian Premier League and what a week it was!

Come-from-behind victories, debutants getting on the scoresheet, and homecomings for players across the country are laying the foundation for what looks like it could be a brilliant season in the CPL.

I was lucky enough to check out Vancouver FC host Valour on Sunday, in what was a definitive victory for the second-year squad out of Langley.

For me, I absolutely love coming out to a game at Willoughby Community Park in Langley. You feel like you’re part of the community when you’re there. Everywhere you look there are local youth soccer clubs, family and friends of the players, people are wearing their VFC gear and I haven’t seen a single person wearing a Messi-Inter Miami kit.

Not to mention, attendance was positive across all four games:

Cavalry @ Forge – 7,395

Wanderers @ Pacific – 4,367

York @ Atlético – 4,049

Valour @ VFC – 4,038

While the numbers were positive, to the people watching the opening match at TD Place Stadium on FuboTV like myself, it looked empty because the crowd was all on the same side of the pitch as the cameras.

The FP crew had a great chat about it earlier this week and Dubs brought up a good point. How are you going to bring people into the stadiums to come watch if it doesn’t look like a fun environment?

For me, I think some teams need to realize that less is more. I believe that Ottawa, Valour and Forge should all be playing somewhere smaller. Much smaller.

If you ask what club has the best game day atmospheres, your answer is Halifax.

Wanderers Grounds seats 6,200 and averaged 5,854 in 2023. That’s a pitch that was 94% full of fans last season and whenever I watch a match in Halifax, you can just tell that it’s an experience to be there.

Let’s compare Pacific and Valour’s numbers from 2023. They averaged nearly identical numbers, both just over 3,200 on average last season. Pacific plays at Starlight Stadium that seats 7,500 while Valour plays at the massive Princess Auto Stadium with a capacity of 33,000.

That means Starlight on average is nearly half-full while Valour is coming in around 10% and honestly it just looks silly. When you can see the fans, they look like they’re miles from the pitch!

This league will succeed because of the fans and as much as the supporters across the league are fantastic, it’s not going to be enough. Embrace the community, make the casual fans feel like they’re part of the club and they will want to come back.

Going to a CPL game is an affordable day out for a family to take in a game. Kids can see players on the pitch who grew up playing for the same clubs they did, how cool is that?

The CPL is still in its infancy, if this league can start to fill 6,000-7,000 people into smaller spaces, it will create that atmosphere around the league like we see in Halifax on a consistent basis and I think the buzz and the demand will only grow.



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