With the 2020 Canadian Premier League season on the horizon, fans have regained full license to argue with one another over their clubs. Which side is the best? Which is most likely to win the 2020 CPL Championship? If you answered, "my team," this is the article for you. With the format now clear and The Island Games set to kick off, it's very obvious which CPL club is going to win it all (assuming, of course, that you skip directly to the section on your team). So, without further ado, here's the unassailable reason why your city will be celebrating a championship in September. RELATED READING: 2020 CPL regular season: The Island Games
Pacific FC - Newfound motivation

The story around the Tridents last year was how much a talented team on paper underperformed under coach Michael Silberbauer. Many of their players have since admitted that the young squad was occasionally lacking the mindset and the motivation required to win consistently. Now, the air around the club feels completely different. With new coach Pa-Modou Kah installed, and several key additions, Pacific looks even better on paper than they did prior to 2019. Kah's past experience in the Vancouver Whitecaps setup means he's coached (or even played with) several member of his squad, many of whom also know each other from the very same MLS academy. Every single PFC player I've spoken to since Kah took over has suggested that the Norwegian is a true players' coach. He seems to have lifted the spirits in the dressing room, and turned them into a club that's absolutely desperate to prove that they're better than they were in 2019. Pacific has the talent and the youthful energy to make a serious run in this tournament, so don't be surprised if they're among the clubs at the top.
FC Edmonton - Depth in key positions

Jeff Paulus sold me on this one, I'll admit. The Eddies' rebuild for 2020 has been quite targeted, bringing in specific types of players (read: left-footers). But what makes them most-suited for a tournament with a short turnaround between matches, with fitness a challenge for every team, is that their understudies in the important positions are just as good as the leading men. The FCE coach pointed out that he has both Tomi Ameobi and Easton Ongaro to play up front, and he has a pair of interchangeable No. 10s in Hanson Boakai and Keven Alemán. It seems that the strategy may be to rotate the squad significantly, to ensure freshness in the spots they want to play through. "We've got a central midfield of Allan Zebie, Erik Zetterberg… that we can rotate," Paulus explained to CanPL.ca. "We think we can rotate them enough to keep them fresh, where one player would play 90, then the second player would play 60 and the third player would play 30. And then the next game, the 90-minute player gets to rest for 60 minutes." The Eddies could, more than most CPL sides, field a heavily rotated starting XI for a game on short rest and still be essentially at full strength. That'll be a major advantage in PEI.
Cavalry FC - 90 Minutes of Hell

Remember what Cavalry did in their first seven games of 2019? FC Edmonton does. There are no guarantees heading into The Island Games about any team's fitness. Games will be coming in rapid succession on short rest, and teams will certainly wear down over 90 minutes (even with five substitutions). Cavalry's modus operandi in 2019 was pressing furiously for the entirety of a match, often leaving their opponents exhausted and broken by the 70th minute. We know how talented Cavalry's squad is, and we know how good they are at taking over the midfield — Nik Ledgerwood can win the ball off of just about anyone in the league. Plus, a healthy Sergio Camargo will make a huge difference in the number 10 spot. If Tommy Wheeldon Jr. can make his 2020 side nearly as relentless as last year's, they could be an absolute terror to play against in Charlottetown. They'll be able to press teams into the ground and, theoretically, find their breakthrough in the latter third of matches.
Valour FC - New-look defence

Valour's defending was not good in 2019. As a result, they've started over for 2020. Just two defenders from last season's squad have returned: Raphael Garcia and Yohan Le Bourhis. They've brought in experienced internationals in Arnold Bouka Moutou and Andrew Jean-Baptiste, as well as Chakib Hocine, who has CPL experience and decent potential. Perhaps most impressively, though, Valour has added a goalkeeper with potential to be the best in the league. James Pantemis, on loan from the Montreal Impact, comes in with a high pedigree and a similar career path to Marco Carducci's. If Pantemis performs to his potential, it'll extraordinarily difficult to score on Valour. Valour's 2020 squad is almost completely different from the 2019 roster, but the area where they needed change the most — the backline — is the area that's most improved. The Winnipeg side isn't likely to be anybody's betting favourite for The Island Games, but in a chaotic, short competition, anything could happen, especially if they aren't leaking goals anymore.
Forge FC - Consistency and familiarity

Apart from, well, being the defending champions, the biggest mark in Forge FC's favour is how unchanged the squad is from 2019. Seventeen players are returning from the title-winning side, with the only truly significant departure being Tristan Borges. Many of them have been playing together for years, since their Sigma FC days. It hurts to lose your MVP and leading goal scorer, of course, but Forge settled into being a very well-organized, tactically sound team in 2019 that could dominate a game even without Borges being much involved. After all, they still have Kyle Bekker pulling strings in the middle, and Daniel Krutzen and David Edgar teaming up at the back. Forge hasn't needed to reinvent the wheel this time around. The system will be the same, with blazing pace on the wings (Awuah-Nanco connection, anyone?) and solid control of the midfield. Plus, Forge is probably the overall deepest and most versatile team in the CPL, with pretty much every player capable of filling in (and even starting) in at least two or three different positions. It won't be as difficult for Forge to settle into their rhythm in this short tournament, nor for them to refine their tactics (since they already did that last year).
York9 FC - Discipline and preparation

Although they've made some splashy moves on the pitch this past off-season, perhaps the most significant additions at York9 have come in the front office and coaching staff. With Paul Stalteri joining Jimmy Brennan as an assistant coach, Angus McNab stepping in to help reform the club off the pitch, and now Sam Gregory coming on board to improve the club's analytics department, the Nine Stripes have an impressive setup. With such short turnaround between games and such small margin for error, the details will be important. That means a well-drilled side, compelled to keep things clean and simple by a strict coach such as Stalteri, might be less likely to succumb to season-killing mistakes. York has also been putting time and resources into sports science and analysis, in an effort to maximize the value of training sessions and, hopefully, limit injuries. By incorporating Gregory's analytics into pre-match preparation, the coaching staff might be spared several hours of going over film in order to analyze an opponent. Those will be extremely valuable hours if they've only got, say, 72 of them between games. By embracing the future of the sports industry, York9 might well find a major advantage in the immediate present.
Atlético Ottawa - Fear of the unknown

Does literally anybody have any idea what Atlético Ottawa is going to look like? Honestly, even the club themselves may not be sure yet — there's sure to be a little experimentation in the early stages of The Island Games from rookie gaffer Mista. Perhaps, in a competition where margins are fine and chaos may reign supreme, there's something to be said for catching your opponent off-guard. Every other CPL club at least has some kind of game film to be studied, even if some of the squads are now completely different. With Ottawa, everything is brand new; we don't even know much about Mista's managerial style or philosophy. If the CPL newcomers can surprise their opponents on their maiden voyage, they could be in with a chance. There's no denying that the expansion side are underdogs, but with their footballing identity still shrouded in the unknown, and a few gamebreakers in the lineup (Francisco Acuña and Ben Fisk, especially), a dark horse run isn't out of the question.
HFX Wanderers FC - Goals will flow

I was tempted to put "home field advantage" for the Wanderers, being (technically) the closest thing this PEI competition has to a home team — particularly since HFX was disproportionately better at home than on the road in 2019. That feels weak(er than my other picks), though. Let's go with the new attacking options on offer for Stephen Hart's squad. Returnee Akeem Garcia is now joined by the highly-touted Alessandro Riggi, proven U SPORTS goal scorer Cory Bent, and lethal Jamaican international Alex Marshall. All of those players were key pieces of the attack at their previous clubs, and now they're set to bring their talents to HFX. They'll have pace from the wings, and (hopefully) better finishing in front of goal than they saw last year from Tomasz Skublak and Luis Alberto Perea. The defence is still solid, with fan favourite Peter Schaale commanding things, and now the midfield will be led by Louis Béland-Goyette. If the attack is as dangerous as it looks on paper, the Wanderers could wreak havoc on opposing defences.

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