Plans for new Canadian Premier League approved

Plans for a Canadian Premier League were approved by the country's soccer leaders this weekend, with founding cities announced for Hamilton and Winnipeg.

The league was officially unveiled at the Canadian Soccer Association's annual meeting, which also saw Steve Reed elected as president.

Though only two teams were initially revealed, Canada Soccer said they have heard from 10 cities interested in joining an all-Canadian league, with aims to begin playing as early as 2018.

Canada does not have its own league, with existing clubs playing in U.S.-based organizations -- Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in MLS, Edmonton in the NASL and Ottawa in the USL.

Winnipeg FC's announcement said the league was aiming to be a "Tier 1 FIFA sanctioned soccer league," though MLS commissioner Don Garber said in March that he believed the CPL would form at a "lower division." Reports last year said the league would initially avoid cities with MLS teams.

Efforts to launch the league were led by Scott Mitchell, who's also the CEO of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. The Winnipeg team is run by Wade Miller, president of the CFL's Blue Bombers. Both teams plan to play at CFL stadiums that have artificial turf.

Canada, which hosted the 2015 Women's World Cup, is hoping to host 10 games of the 2026 World Cup, sharing duties with the U.S. and Mexico.

President-elect Reed will serve the remainder of the four-year term of Victor Montagliani, who is stepping down to focus on his duties as CONCACAF president.

"I would like to thank the Canada Soccer Membership for the opportunity as we continue the incredible momentum for the sport of soccer in our country," Reed said in a statement. "This was an important day for our sport with the unanimous approval of the Canadian Premier League along with Hamilton and Winnipeg as new members of the Association and the overwhelming support for the 2026 FIFA World Cup joint bid with USA and Mexico."

Canadian clubs can currently only qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League by winning the five-team Canadian Championship, and not through their U.S.-based leagues, though that could change with the introduction of the CPL.

On Friday, the regional body announced the CONCACAF League, which will feature 16 clubs from Central America and Caribbean fighting for one spot in the Champions League, will begin this August with a draw set for May 31.

Guatemalan clubs will be banned while its federation is suspended from FIFA, with Panama and Honduras instead gaining extra spots in the preliminary tournament, and Costa Rica given a second reserved spot in the Champions League.