Original club member Elijah Adekugbe, seven others leaving Cavalry FC

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Times they are a changin’ for Cavalry FC and the Canadian Premier League.

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On Tuesday, Cavalry announced the departure of eight first-team players following the conclusion of the 2022 footie campaign.

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Elijah Adekugbe, an original member when the club formed four years ago, fellow midfielders Elliot Simmons and Joe Di Chiara, defenders David Norman Jr. and Tom Field and forward Anthony Novak are officially on the move away from the Calgary side this off-season.

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As well, Karifa Yao and Jean Aniel-Assi are returning to CF Montréal following their loan spell with Cavalry.

“We are thankful to the players for their time with us,” said Cavalry GM/head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “They gave us everything they had.”

Wheeldon Jr. has coached Adekugbe — a Calgary product — since he was 10 years old.

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“He helped become a big part of his hometown’s professional club,” said Wheeldon Jr. “He’s a mentally strong player, with great technique who has come back from two serious Achilles injuries. We felt it was time he heard a new voice and got a new change of environment.”

Simmons, a mainstay in the midfield for three seasons in Calgary, is off to explore his options overseas.

“We proposed an offer for him to stay,” said Wheeldon Jr. “But we respect his wishes and wish him well.”

Neither Field nor Novak were able to suit up for Cavalry this past season.

“Both were unfortunate to miss the season this year with their respective knee injuries,” continued Wheeldon Jr. “Tom is back to full fitness and exploring other opportunities, whilst we are supporting Anthony to get back to full health before he departs the club.

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“Both Di Chiara and Norman joined for the 2021 season with great promise. Both are great guys and solid players. However, between injuries and suspensions, we could never get a good run of games in the team with either to see their best, so wish them luck on their new chapters.”

And then there’s the two CF Montreal loanees.

“Karifa continues to grow and develop as an imposing defender,” added Wheeldon Jr. “sWe are thankful to CF Montreal for their faith in us to further develop him and young Jean-Aniel. Jean showed some exciting moments as a 17-year-old and has a bright future in the game.”

As far as league changes go, Tuesday brought on news of an increase to the league’s minimum player salary and total player compensation budgets ahead of the 2023 season.

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The player minimum salary increases by 36 per cent to $30,000 CAD for the 2023 season.

Other changes to the total compensation for players include separating each club’s player salary budget from the technical staff salary budget, now each with independent minimum and maximum spends. The two budgets were previously connected and limited within a total combined spend amount.

The result is an increase to the player total compensation budget by $175,000 to a maximum spend of $1.125 million, an 18.5 per cent increase. As well, the minimum a CPL club must now spend on its player compensation budget is $750,000, a 15 per cent increase from 2022.

These changes were recommended by the league office and unanimously approved by the CPL’s board of governors.

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“Building upon our stellar 2022 season, we are pleased to take another important step forward in the development of the Canadian Premier League by announcing increases to our players’ total compensation,” said CPL commissioner Mark Noonan. “I am consistently impressed by the level of play in our young league and believe these changes will not only further reward our current players but encourage prospective players to consider the CPL as their league of choice.”

The maximum spend of $1.125 million for player compensation can be achieved by clubs implementing the league’s under-21 players incentive program that was first introduced ahead of the 2022 season. It was designed specifically to encourage CPL clubs to sign promising young talent. This program provides salary cap relief to clubs on the first $200,000 of under-21 player compensation, whereby only 50 per cent of an under-21 player’s salary counts toward the salary budget cap. This mechanism allows clubs to earn up to $100,000 of relief (50 per cent of $200,000) to hit the $1.125-million ceiling.

“These important changes continue to reinforce our mission of creating opportunities for young Canadian players to showcase their talents on home soil and build a league that all who love the beautiful game here in Canada can proudly support,” added Noonan.

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