Kelowna to host Cavalry-Vancouver CPL match with expansion in mind

Next month’s soccer event the launch-point for domestic league’s ‘On Tour’ series

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Kelowna is a high-priority expansion market for the Canadian Premier League. So much so that the country’s domestic soccer circuit is making the B.C. centre its first stop of its ‘On Tour’ series next month.

That upcoming game in the Okanagan Valley features a regular-season match involving Cavalry FC and ‘host’ Vancouver FC.

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“Our new On Tour series is an innovative way to bring our league, clubs and players to prospective new CPL markets, and we’re thrilled to be making Kelowna our first stop ‘On Tour’ this summer,” said CPL commissioner Mark Noonan.

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“We look forward to engaging with existing CPL supporters in the Okanagan Valley, attracting new fans to our game, meeting with Kelowna city officials and turning the On Tour series into a destination event for other potential CPL communities.”

The series — a new initiative launched by Canada’s top flight of men’s professional soccer — foresees the staging of competitive games at neutral sites across the country in the coming years, as the CPL continues its mission to connect with fans of ‘The Beautiful Game’ from coast to coast and expand into new communities across the nation.

The contest between Vancouver and Canadian Premier League Shield-holder Cavalry is slated for Kelowna’s Apple Bowl on Sunday, June 16 (5 p.m. ET, OneSoccer, It marks the second of four league meetings between the Western Canadian rivals and is one of Vancouver’s two home games in the season-long series between the rivals.

Blue Bear, Kelowna, B.C.
The Blue Bear in Kelowna, B.C. Photo by Postmedia /Postmedia

Cavalry season-ticket holders will gain pre-sale access on Thursday.

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“When this CPL On Tour concept came up for Kelowna, it made sense to have both sides of the Rockies represented,” said Cavalry president Ian Allison. “We know how many people from this part of the world hang their shingle out in the Okanagan Valley for a good part of the year. So I’m hoping that it’s a balanced crowd-fandom out there on June 16th. We may even bring the 2023 CPL Shield for photo ops and inspiration.

“I’m excited about it.”

So is Vancouver FC president and former Canadian men’s national team striker Rob Friend, who grew up in Kelowna.

Friend was the first soccer player to be inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.

“I am thrilled to bring the inaugural edition of the On Tour Series to Kelowna,” Friend said. “I know how passionate everyone in the Okanagan Valley is about community, and what an opportunity this will be for local soccer fans to rally around our game and our league.”

Vancouver season-ticket members looking to purchase ducats for the match will have access to a pre-sale Wednesday, as supporters of the home club.

Tickets then go on sale to the general public Friday.

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“It makes sense for Kelowna to be the first stop in this series,” said Friend, whose own club — which is in its second CPL season — is the latest expansion franchise for the Canadian league. “And I can’t wait to see the city set the standard for what the On Tour series can be going forward.”

Of course, forward thinking is that of expanding from the current eight teams that comprise the CPL these days.

“Especially the Okanagan Valley — and Kelowna, in particular — has been on the CPL radar for some time,” Allison said. “The circumstances were that the first group that looked at it wasn’t able to put the puzzle together. But it’s had a bit of a rising from the ashes and the city seems to be on board. And with the Apple Bowl out there, there’s a venue that has hosted our sport in the past. Indeed, the Vancouver Whitecaps have played a neutral-site game there — or many of them there — so we know it’s a great soccer community.

“We already have a concentration of teams in the area where there’s Ottawa, York and Forge,” continued Allison. “So it would be a great benefit if all the stars aligned to have a team on Vancouver Island, a team in Vancouver, a team in Calgary and maybe in the Okanagan. And presumably one day again, we’ll be able to look at Edmonton again and do all that.

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“Exciting times.”

Cavalry FC
Vancouver Kembo Kibato and Cavalry’s Fraser Aird go airborne during CPL soccer action at ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows in Calgary on Friday, May 3, 2024. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

Kelowna 2024 will be supported by the City of Kelowna, Tourism Kelowna and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport for British Columbia.

The lead-up to matchday will include various family-friendly events and celebrations in the Okanagan Valley, where CPL coaches, players and personalities will be on hand to make visits to local schools and participate in guest coaching opportunities with local clubs.

Festival goers will be invited to an official Kelowna 2024 kickoff event, as well as a gameday tailgate, among other activities to be staged for all ages in the days leading up to the match.

More details about the festivities will be announced as they become available.

Next month’s game marks the first time the league will stage a one-off competitive match at a neutral site venue.

The Apple Bowl, home of the Okanagan Challenge of the Pacific Coast Soccer League, is a multi-purpose stadium in Kelowna’s Parkinson Recreation Park.

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