Canada Day, of course, gives people the opportunity to solemnly reflect upon what it means to live in this country, and about all the things we are thankful for as Canadians. But July 1, 2020 was also supposed to be a big day for soccer fans, with all eight CPL teams scheduled to be involved in four back-to-back-to-back-to-back matches (across four provinces), before the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the campaign. While there isn’t any CPL soccer to watch at the moment, fans shouldn’t get too disheartened. CPL teams are currently back in training following a two-month layoff, and the league still hopes to have some sort of season in 2020. Commissioner David Clanachan even recently hinted in an interview with OneSoccer that the CPL could be back on the pitch sometime this summer. With that in mind, it got us thinking about what we’re most looking forward to about the CPL’s re-start? What’s the one thing that should most excite soccer fans about the CPL’s eventual return to the pitch?'s John Molinaro, Marty Thompson, and Charlie O'Connor-Clarke offer their thoughts. RELATED READING: CPL’s Canada Day quadruple-header was to celebrate soccer from coast-to-coast

One of the stories of the 2019-20 off-season was the CPL’s new partnership with 21st Club, and how it completely changed the league’s transfer activity. We saw every team bolster its domestic contingent with exciting youngsters, many of whom came with pedigrees from massive South and Central American clubs. Now, the question is how effective will these new under-23 internationals really be? York9 FC, for instance, revamped their attack with Gabriel Vasconcelos and Adrián Ugarriza joining Canadians Michael Petrasso and Ryan Telfer. Pacific FC brought in Alejandro Díaz from Club América. Jeff Paulus seems pretty excited for FC Edmonton’s newcomers, Raúl Tito and Erik Zetterberg. The list goes on. Many of these players had up-and-down seasons recently, with first-team football hard to come by and the results perhaps not flowing freely. Most of them are here for a fresh start in Canada, and it’ll be fascinating to see how well they fit into new clubs (especially after such a strange, fragmented few months without proper training). Of course, some of these players, unfortunately, remain unable to train with their new CPL outfits, feeling the effects of pandemic-related travel restrictions, but a few of these exciting youngsters have been able to acclimatize themselves in their new cities the past few months while getting to know their new teammates. – By Charlie O'Connor-Clarke

How does a supporters group be a supporters group when they have to sit at home, instead of in their seats at the stadium? We’re about to find out. While watching a 2020 Canadian Premier League season match from home isn’t ideal, it will allow for special moments between fans in the CPL. Right now, there are eight communities of supporters across the country ready to keep the momentum going – even as chances to see their team in-person this calendar year aren’t very good. It shows the passion CPL fans have, and how fortunate Canadian soccer is to have them. When the Barton St. Battalion or Privateers 1882 get together, I’m excited to see how they manage. We’ve heard about outside, physically distant viewing parties in Calgary – what will other supporter groups do to recreate the feeling of togetherness? Stories of fans gathering online to chirp other supporters or just for the sake of it should warm our hearts. Sure, the CPL is about developing Canadian players, but it’s also about creating fans, creating relationships, and using soccer to bring people together. Without games in their hometowns, CPL supporters have had the cards stacked against them – but we know that won’t stop them. – by Marty Thompson

As part of its mission to help player development, the CPL requires all of its teams to have at least three young Canadian players (under-21s) on their roster combine for at least 1,000 minutes played in a season. Last year, we saw a number of prospects enjoy breakout seasons thanks in large part to this rule. Forge FC’s Tristan Borges was one of the biggest stories in the CPL in 2019, winning the Golden Boot, Player of the Year and Best Under-21 Player of the Year awards. Pacific FC’s Terran Campbell and Easton Ongaro were two of the top goal-scorers in the league, while York9 FC’s Diyaeddine Abzi established himself as one of the best fullbacks in the CPL. The exploits of the league’s under-21 class did not go unnoticed by Canada Soccer, as eight CPLers were named to the Canadian U-23 provisional squad for the 2020 Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament that was eventually postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After seeing so many under-21 players make a name for themselves for the first time in the CPL in 2019, it’ll be interesting to find out which of the league’s young prospects will break out in 2020. Will a CPL newcomer come out of nowhere to win the Golden Boot and sweep the year-end awards like Borges did a year ago? Will Jose Hernandez, who fought injury issues at Pacific FC in 2019, find a new lease on life with Cavalry FC? Will Atlético Ottawa’s teenage sensation Antoine Coupland take the CPL by storm? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’ll be fun to watch. – by John Molinaro

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