Will MLS be the death of the CFL?


Nov 9, 2016
On this rainy day i thought I would throw out some food for thought. Currently with it's new CFL deal with TSN, the mighty Canadian Football league has managed to stabilise itself and carry on with business. having even in the last year expanded with re-adding Ottawa back into the fold.

Canada has the population or less of California. We have our Hockey teams (major and minor), football CFL, along with those in the West and East coast the NFL. Having Toronto in MSL did not at first seem to harm the CFL. Now that Montreal and Vancouver are both in, these three main cities seem to be having the fan fight for the entertainment dollar. And I am hedging my bets towards the MLS overtaking and eroding the CFL fan-base in the next few years if it has not done so quite well already. Hockey is somewhat safe in BC but in Canada overall entrenched so that is no worry. Without making this war and peace I'll focus on the BC Lions as i make my point.

The BC Lions on CFLdb Statistics

The Lions will probably never reach the levels of fandom of that of the 80's. But in 2008 they had a larger uptick and also in the 2011 season. Since then, steady decline. Why? Fan dollars being spent on Soccer at MLS games. You can't blame the Canucks. The Lions have dropped fans each year while since 2011 (height of Canucks fever with cup run) the NHL team in the city has steadily gotten worse and has lost it's fanbase as well. You would assume the CFL Lions would gain from those losses. But nope, and sadly the CFL also has the oldest demographics with regard to it's most loyal fans. Youth seem to be choosing something else. Montreal and Toronto CFL clubs have similar if not worse drops in attendance. You can blame the product on the fields during this time, I say it does not speak to the entire picture.

Last year in 2016 all three Canadian MLS clubs made it into the top 10 in attendance.

team attendance raw # and # games

4 Toronto FC 26,583 451,917 17
5 LA Galaxy 25,147 427,492 17
6 Vancouver Whitecaps 22,330 379,603 17
7 Portland Timbers 21,144 359,448 17
8 Montreal Impact 20,669 351,366

I foresee this growing for the MLS in Canada as larger names keep being brought in league wide. As more teams are added and the game grows in popularity. Soccer just has so MUCH going for it, so many tie ins, be it related directly or just "soccer" selling itself like the Euro Cup/World Cup/EPL. Where do CFL fans turn to in relation to news about BIG new signing? They don't, they only hear a name with and when the CFL club inks a player. Media wise they cannot compete and while seemingly to be on Par or close to the same dollar amounts to spend on players with MLS clubs, the numbers tell a chilling tale. The CFL roster is 56 players deep with a Cap of 5.1 million. The MLS is 3.8 millions (and rising) for 28 players and then you have your DP spots and every other type of shenanigan the MLS will allow to let talent come in.

Anyways.. it is war and peace sorry. Agree disagree? I by no means wish ill on the CFL having watched all my life. But I believe as the major Canadian cities turn to the MLS, the CFL will perish and only Middle Canada will try to save it... perhaps along with Hamilton.


Active Member
Aug 20, 2015
CFL seems to be enjoying a mini-revival in some market.

I'd say it all depends on Don Garber, and how much he cares about the Canadian MLS franchises. If MLS follows the lead of USL and NASL and counts Canadians as domestic players in the US, then more Canadian players will come back to MLS. More high-profile Canadians, like Hutchison, Arfield, Hoillett (sp?) will mean more north of the border.

Locally, it all depends on the Whitecaps. If they continue to meander the road of mediocrity, while playing boring footy, then casual fans will leave, and some of the hardcore will leave to watch USL (TSS Rovers out of Swangard) or the mythical Canadian Professional League..