Canadian Championship - Toronto FC - trophy celebration

What is the Canadian Championship? Your primer, everything you need to know

Nationwide bragging rights, possession of a historic trophy and a prized place in the Concacaf Champions League will be on the line when the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC play the second and decisive leg of the 2019 Canadian Championship final on Wednesday, September 25. The Impact carry a narrow 1-0 advantage into Toronto after the first leg played at Stade Saputo.

It’s the culmination of a months-long tournament featuring 13 teams, which has grown bigger, tougher and more compelling than ever in its 12th year of existence – all with the addition of representatives from the new Canadian Premier League. The event is overseen by Canada Soccer.

Using a bracket-style knockout format with a two-legged home-and-away series in each matchup, the Canadian Championship is contested separately from MLS play, with teams from multiple levels of Canadian professional and semi-professional soccer eligible to compete.

What is the Canadian Championship?

Montreal celebrate their 2014 Canadian Championship win | USA Today Sports Images

This is Canada’s annual domestic cup competition, the Great White North’s version of the FA Cup or U.S. Open Cup. Though different iterations of an honor for the nation’s top-performing club have existed for decades, the CanChamp proper was founded in 2008 and usually unfolds in the summer months.

For the first few years, only three teams took part: Toronto FC and the lower-division incarnations of the Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps. FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury entered the fray when they came into existence. Back in 2018, a qualifying component was added for semi-pro teams from provincial leagues in Ontario and Quebec.

The seven founding members of the CPL – Cavalry FC, Forge FC, HFX Wanderers, Pacific FC, Valour FC, York9 FC and the reborn FC Edmonton – made their debuts in 2019.

Participants enter the competition at different points depending on their tier in the pyramid and past performance. All matchups are two-legged home-and-away series with the away-goals tiebreaker in effect. Beyond that, penalty-kick shootouts are used to break deadlocks.

What do the champions win?

The Voyageurs Cup | Canada Soccer

The CanChamp winner earns possession of the Voyageurs Cup, the fan-conceived trophy dating back to 2002 that is maintained and awarded by the Voyageurs, a supporters' group for the Canadian national teams.

CanChamp winners also qualify for CCL, North America’s top club competition, as Canada’s club representative in international play. That also offers a route to the FIFA Club World Cup.

Which teams have won the most?

Toronto have won the tournament on seven occasions, including the last three straight. Montreal have won it three times, and the Whitecaps once.

Calgary-based Cavalry FC were the top non-MLS performers in 2019, defeating CPL colleagues Pacific and Forge before knocking off Vancouver in the third round. They eventually fell to the Impact, 3-1 on aggregate, in the semis.

Why should you care?

If you’re Canadian, this tournament is key on a number of levels, starting with the crowning of the country’s top club and Champions League delegate.

It’s also the only chance for teams across several different leagues to compete head-to-head. Given that since 2017 CanChamp rules have required teams to field at least three Canadian players in their starting lineups, it's an important stage for domestic talent to shine. The George Gross Memorial Trophy is awarded to the tournament’s most valuable player, with TFC and Canadian national team midfielder Jonathan Osorio winning in 2018.

For non-Canucks, CanChamp offers all the compelling aspects of cup competition, including David-and-Goliath matchups, Cinderella runs, tense knockout drama and a range of geographic and historical matchups. Perhaps none are more heated than the Montreal-Toronto rivalry featured in the 2019 final.

For MLS observers in any nation, the CanChamp bears watching as a cradle for CCL contenders. For whatever reason, Canadian teams have performed better than their US counterparts in Champions League, with Toronto making an impressive run to the 2018 CCL final and Montreal doing the same in 2015. Only one other MLS team in the modern era has matched that feat: Real Salt Lake in 2011.

How can you watch?

The 2019 Canadian Championship is streamed on OneSoccer.ca.

All-time Canadian Championship winners

Year Team
2008 Montreal Impact (USL)
2009 Toronto FC
2010 Toronto FC
2011 Toronto FC
2012 Toronto FC
2013 Montreal Impact
2014 Montreal Impact
2015 Vancouver Whitecaps
2016 Toronto FC
2017 Toronto FC
2018 Toronto FC
Series: