Another spring, another title to play for. Though the CONCACAF Champions League is already in the rearview mirror of MLS teams for this year, three MLS teams and one remaining NASL team from Canada have their sights firmly set on the Amway Canadian Championship.
The winner not only will hoist a national title and the bragging rights that come with it, but will also gain entry into the CONCACAF Champions League for the 2014-15 edition.
The ACC is a relatively young competition, having only been founded in 2008, though the Voyageurs Cup trophy (above), awarded annually to the top team in Canadian soccer, is slightly older, having first been awarded to the Canadian side with the best record in the then-USL First Division (then the second tier of North American soccer) since 2002.
The competition initially started as a round-robin tournament, but it has been contested as a knockout competition – essentially Canada's domestic cup – since 2011, when the NASL's FC Edmonton brought the total of Canada's professional teams to four. NASL expansion side Ottawa Fury joined the fray this year, but fell 3-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round against Edmonton.
The actual ACC title has remained firmly in the grasp of Toronto (four wins) and Montreal (two wins), while Vancouver have had to settle for being the bridesmaid in all but one of the six tournaments to date. Aditionally, the then-second division Impact won all six Voyageurs Cups contested prior to the institution of the ACC.
And with the big prize of a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League on the line, Canadian teams will look to build on some strong showings in that tournament.
After a historic win over Toronto in the 2008 edition, the Impact – still a second-division team at the time – lost just one game in a four-team CCL group containing eventual champions Atlante. They then defeated Santos Laguna 2-0 at home in their quarterfinal tie before falling 5-2 in Mexico – one goal short of what would have been an upset of enormous proportions, not to mention a semifinal berth.
In the 2011-12 edition, Toronto FC did their Canadian rivals one better, albeit as an MLS team, emerging out of their group at the expense of FC Dallas and scoring an upset of defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy in the quarterfinals before bowing out to Santos Laguna in the semifinals.
And as Canadian sides make a marked improvement in MLS play – Vancouver became the first to qualify for the postseason in 2012 and Montreal followed them in 2013 – and MLS teams continue to push in the CCL, why shouldn't they dream of beating out US teams to become the first MLS side to win the CCL?
So gear up, another edition of the Amway Canadian Championship is set to begin, and with it, another chapter in Canadian soccer history.
Fans in Canada will be able to catch all the action on Sportsnet One, and you can find the tournament schedule below (home team listed first):
Semifinal, Leg 1
May 7: Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 7:30 pm ET
May 7: FC Edmonton vs. Montreal Impact, 9:30 pm ET
Semifinal, Leg 2
May 14: Montreal Impact vs. FC Edmonton, 7:30 pm ET
May 14: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC, 10:30 pm ET
Leg 1: May 28, time TBD
Leg 2: June 4, time TBD