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TFC 2010 | Week#6

Canadian Championship Series Starts Tonight

The What?

Toronto FC hosts the Montreal Impact in the first game of the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship tonight. While the Reds rivals in this series don’t play in the MLS, Vancouver is set to join the league next season and everyone is expecting an imminent announcement that Montreal will join shortly afterward. The Voyageurs Cup, as the premier Canadian trophy in pro soccer, has been around for longer than the Toronto FC. In fact, the Montreal Impact have practically owned it since its inception. Despite the apparent difference in status between Toronto FC and the other two teams based on their league affiliations, the competition between these teams has always been quite even. Montreal and Vancouver have bested the Reds in previous series, and Toronto’s victory last season was the result of a spectacularly improbable night of scoring in Montreal’s Stade Saputo.

The Miracle In Montreal

Last year’s flourish of goals on the Impact’s home turf (TFC won the game 6-1) allowed Toronto FC to better the Whitecap’s large goal differential lead and secure the Voyageurs Cup. That final game from 2009 will surely be present on both team’s minds tonight. I’m sure the Impact would love to show up at BMO Field with a giant can of comeuppance. Preki is reputed to be dismissive of Cup games outside of MLS play, and one can see his point when it comes to his primary job at hand (pulling together a faltering team and making the MLS playoffs). Nevertheless, and regardless of the roster Preki chooses to field, the players out there tonight will be throwing it down like it matters.

Nothing could be better for the sport in this part of the world than a heated rivalry with our closest Canadian competitors. With all three Canadian pro teams destined for the MLS, this should become a bigger deal with every season moving forward.

There’s More Yet

The upside for the clubs is that this competition is a qualifying leg for the CONCACAF championships that are played between qualifying Mexican, US and Canadian pro teams. It’s our equivalent of the UEFA Champion’s League and other such competitions, and it is a significant step toward establishing the sport in North America and giving it greater parity with the way professional leagues function around the world. The saddest part of last year’s performance by the Toronto FC was giving up a 1-0 home loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders in the next stage. That defeat, and the Islanders’ stalwart defense in the return leg meant TFC was scoreless in the series and exited seemingly without ever showing up for the fight.

It might seem meaningless in the immediate, but the Canadian Championship and the CONCACAF series are important pieces in the bigger picture. Though it exists outside of MLS competition, these series are part of the process for establishing the sport more broadly and are significant opportunities for Toronto FC to establish a greater legacy and wider notoriety.

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