Vancouver Whitecaps, CF Montréal rivalry enters Canadian Championship final


There's more than just a trophy on the line when Vancouver Whitecaps FC and CF Montréal face off in the Canadian Championship final, which kicks off  Wednesday at BC Place (10 pm ET | OneSoccer in Canada; FS2 in United States).

To hear Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini tell it, the silverware is just part of the equation. The matchup also awards a spot in the newly-rebranded 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup to the winner, along with spotlighting rivalries between the Canadian participants that Sartini says might get overlooked elsewhere.

"We are all about winning trophies," Sartini said on Tuesday. "At the end of the year, it’s all about that. It’s all about two things basically: winning a competition and try to get the [Audi MLS Cup] Playoffs. At least one of the two we need to achieve. I think we can achieve both this season, maybe even more.

"...When we have the possibility to play in the national stage, I think it’s really important because it really, for me, puts the rivalry with the other big clubs that we have in Canada, like Montréal and Toronto and all the regional rivalry that we get with Vancouver FC, with Pacific, but I will include also Cavalry… For us, in a much bigger perspective, that counts more for people who actually are involved in soccer in this country."

For the Whitecaps, it's an opportunity to repeat following their triumph in the cup competition last season, this time against a CF Montréal side that Sartini noted has looked resurgent in recent weeks under first-year boss Hernan Losada. After stumbling out of the gate in 2023, CFM have climbed back into the mix for the Eastern Conference playoff picture, while also managing to embark on their own successful CanChamp run.

"We need to have a lot of respect for them\]," Sartini said. "They’re a much better team than when we played them two months ago and [we beat them \[5-0\] here. But I still think that if we play our best game… at the end, the celebrations [will be] in English, not in French."

To boost those prospects, Sartini said he's expecting an electric atmosphere at BC Place from those fans hoping to see the club lift the trophy again on their home field.

"When our fans show up, don’t underestimate them," Sartini said.

Road warriors

For his part, Losada said he harbors no illusions about CFM's underdog status as the road team, noting each Canadian MLS side has only lost one home match apiece this season. But in a final such as this with rivalry implications, stats like that also tend to go out the window.

"It will be a game full of emotions, it will be a very close game and I hope we can have a very good night," Losada said. "I'm very positive. I always believe that my team has the chance and I believe my players will be ready for the challenge. We will try to do our best to beat the favorite during this final."

As the club also look to continue their ascent back above the playoff line, midfielder Mathieu Choinière said lifting a trophy on their rival's home field could act as a necessary boost for his side at the midseason point.

"Winning a trophy, it's something always good emotionally for the club," said Choinière, who won the Canadian Championship in 2019 and 2021 with CFM. "Personally it's amazing and it's good feelings, gives confidence. We want to go there and have this feeling at the end of the game. Lifting the trophy is so good and gives us confidence.

"We want to win the final and go play for the Concacaf Championship," he added. "It means a lot, winning this team and being the best team in Canada."