Cavalry takes training south for soccer challenges in Mexico

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Better late than never.

This trip to Mexico for Cavalry FC would have better served the footie club — you might think — ahead of its Concacaf Champions Cup adventure.

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But any training against strong competition is most welcome for Calgary’s professional soccer troops, which is why they’re in the sunny climes getting prepared for the bulk of their 2024 schedule — that being the Canadian Premier League campaign.

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“This is Part 2 of training camp — Part 1 was Concacaf prep,” said Cavalry GM/head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr., recalling the two-game series loss to Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC in their February debut of the continental event for league and tournament champions.

“We gave the boys a week off after our Concacaf exit, so that they were able to refresh and refocus on the next challenges ahead,” continued Wheeldon. “Now we focus on the CPL season coming up.”

That begins in Hamilton in a rematch of last fall’s league championship final, with visiting Cavalry up against nemesis Forge FC on Saturday, April 13 (2 p.m.).

Of course, Wheeldon and the Cavs are out to defend their regular-season crown won with a dominant 16W-7D-5L record last season.

That title take also ticketed them for the coveted Concacaf appearance, as they joined Forge as the only other CPL side in the 27-team competition.

But with that participation in the rear-view mirror — 3-0 and 3-1 drops to Orlando City — it’s time now to focus on the upcoming sixth season of the CPL.

“The mood has been good,” said Wheeldon, despite the early exit from the Concacaf fun.

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“Mexico gives us a different environment to train in and very good competition to play against,” continued Wheeldon. “It’s a trip that helps us sharpen our axe. We have three games against D1, D2 and D3 Mexican teams.”

In particular, the 10-day training trip — presented by WestJet — began Monday down south after seven previous days of camp in Calgary.

On Tuesday, the Cavs faced third-tier Mexican side Inter de Querétaro FC — a Liga Premier de México team playing out of Estadio Olimpico de Querétaro in Querétaro City.

The three-match friendly trek then continues Friday against Querétaro FC — a.k.a. Gallos Blancos — a club in Mexico’s top-tier Liga MX also playing in Querétaro City out of Estadio Corregidora.

And finally, it’s a contest next Wednesday with Celaya FC, a tier-two squad playing in Mexico’s Liga de Expansión MX at Estadio Miguel Alemán Valdés in Celaya.

“Any time we go away, we have the chance to build chemistry on and off the pitch,” Wheeldon said. “As we’ve witnessed in the past, our successes have come from when we have a team that understands their role, plays for each other and enjoys shared successes.

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“We anticipate that Mexico will bring challenges that will help us get closer to these ideals.”

Then, they can take what they’ve learned into April and the regular season, which also includes a couple more important dates beyond the season opener at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field.

On Tuesday, April 23, the Cavs host their first game of 2024 at Spruce Meadows’ ATCO Field, with the first leg of the first round of the Telus Canadian Championship against visiting Vancouver FC.

And five days later on Sunday, April 28, it’s the Cavs’ CPL home opener against rival Pacific FC at ATCO Field.

“We have a couple of bumps and bruises after the Orlando games but nothing serious at this point,” added Wheeldon, of his roster which is ready for action.

“The new additions give us an added edge and makes our depth stronger so that we can change and adapt our tactics in games. The returnees come back with continuity and quality from last year with an opportunity to chase more successes.”


The CPL is removing any age requirements as it relates to the maximum of seven international players each club is allowed to include on its primary roster. A club is no longer required to ensure at least 50% of its international players meet the under-23 age requirement … Also beginning in 2024, players signed to CPL-U SPORTS contracts will no longer count toward a club’s 23-man primary roster. Instead, a club may add up to three players on CPL-U SPORTS contracts to its developmental roster. In signing a CPL-U SPORTS contract, university-level players can maintain their U SPORTS eligibility while earning professional experience in the CPL … The CPL will increase each club’s player total compensation budget by approximately 8% to a maximum spend of $1,212,500 in 2024, while maintaining the requirement for each club to spend a minimum of $750,000 on its player compensation budget. The maximum spend can be achieved if clubs implement the league’s under-21 players incentive, which was designed to encourage clubs to sign promising young talent. Under-21 players signed to a club’s primary roster hit the player compensation budget at 50% of their total compensation, up to a maximum benefit of $100,000 per club per year. Players signed to a club’s developmental roster generally do not count towards its player compensation budget … The CPL has extended its partnership with DERBYSTAR Canada, retaining the world-class brand as the league’s official matchday and training ball provider through the 2025 season. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with DERBYSTAR Canada for another two seasons,” said Glen Johnson, the executive vice-president of the CPL and Canadian Soccer Business. “From the technology behind the ball to the quality of the product to the innovative design, it is clear why DERBYSTAR is a leader in the industry.” The patriotic new 2024-25 official match ball features a design with rich reds and crisp whites of the Canadian flag and is adorned with the uniquely blended Maple Leaf and North Star emblem that sits at the heart of the CPL logo. The use of the striking colourway and pattern reflect the passion shared by every member of the CPL and its communities to represent the very best of Canada by way of the beautiful game.

— with files from Postmedia news services

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