Large crowd and high stakes for Forge FC as CF Montréal becomes first-ever MLS club to play in Hamilton

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Published October 27, 2021 at 11:57 am

Tristan Borges and his Forge FC Hamilton teammates are faced with their biggest challenge and greatest opportunity over the next week. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

Forge FC is, by far, the busiest club in the Canadian Premier League (CPL). They have been since the league’s inaugural season in 2019.

The Hamilton-based soccer club has bounced around from domestic league matches to playing in Concacaf tournaments, and then taking part in the Canadian Championship.

In the next week, Forge will take part in all three campaigns, beginning Wednesday (Oct. 27) night when CF Montréal becomes the first Major League Soccer (MLS) club to play in Hamilton. The Canadian Championship semifinal is expected to draw more than 6,000 fans to Tim Horton’s Field — one of the biggest crowds in the franchise’s short, but eventful, history.

Earning respect as a start-up professional sports league comes with its own challenges — made even more challenging in the midst of a pandemic. Still, the CPL has made incredible strides in garnering international attention, thanks in large part to Forge’s success outside of domestic play that caught many by surprise. That success even led to Forge’s MVP forward Tristan Borges being sold to Belgian club OH Leuven in 2020, before being returned to Hamilton on loan. CPL commissioner David Clanachan called it a “landmark transfer” for Forge FC and the league at the time.

But if Forge and the rest of the CPL want to be seen as more than just a lower-tiered Canadian sports league, it will have to show that it can consistently compete with the bigger MLS clubs.

Either Forge or Montréal will advance to the Canadian Championship Final, against either Toronto FC of MLS or Pacific FC of the CPL. It’s unlikely, but imagine what an all-CPL Canadian final would do for the league as a whole?

Forge will get another chance to impress internationally next Tuesday (Nov. 2) when it hosts Costa Rica’s Santos de Guápiles in the second leg of the Concacaf League quarterfinals. Hamilton scored an away goal in the first match but ultimately enters their home leg down 3-1.

Sandwiched in between the Canadian Championship and Concacaf League is a home date against HFX Wanderers. The back-to-back defending CPL champions have already clinched a spot in the postseason, so Forge will be playing for playoff seeding. Currently sitting in the third playoff spot, Forge is three points out of first place with three matches in hand on Pacific FC and five matches remaining.

In the soccer world, a busy schedule is the goal. For Forge, it’s an opportunity for all involved (including the fans) to make a statement.

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