July 24 was an interesting day for Canadian soccer.
The remodelled Canadian Championship, involving the three Canadian MLS teams, Ottawa Fury of the USL and all seven teams from the Canadian Premier League and the champions of League1 Ontario (L1O) and the Première Ligue de soccer du Quebec (PLSQ) was in its third qualifying stage.
The first stage went according to plan. HFX (Halifax) Wanderers of the CPL knocked out Vaughan Azzuri (L1O), and York9 (CPL) managed to slip by AS Blainville (PLSQ). Cavalry FC (based in Calgary) and Pacific FC (based in Victoria) also clashed, with Cavalry getting the better of Pacific, winning 4-1 on aggregate.
The second stage, involving only CPL teams also went according to plan, considering the standings in the CPL’s spring competition. The fourth-placed Wanderers eliminated the last-placed Winnipeg-based Valour FC to an aggregate score of 4-1. First place Calvary slipped past (Hamilton) Forge FC, who were just behind them in the standings. The only upset was York9 slipping past FC Edmonton.
However, the third stage of the tournament provided most of the entertainment, providing an upset and two close battles.
The third stage is where two of the MLS teams, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact entered the tournament, as well as the United Soccer League’s Ottawa Fury.
The Ottawa Fury and the HFX Wanderers had a high-scoring affair over the two legs. The first leg saw Ottawa win 3-2. The second leg looked good for the Wanderers, scoring two early goals, but Ottawa managed to kick it up a notch, scoring two goals as well. The second leg ended in a draw, but Ottawa was allowed to advance to face Toronto FC, the current holder of the competition.
York9 FC managed to score two goals in the last ten minutes of their first leg against the Montreal Impact. It was almost the first upset of this year’s edition, but a poorly timed tackle allowed Montreal to convert a penalty after two minutes of extra time. The leg ended 2-2. Montreal ran away in the second leg, winning 1-0.
The Vancouver Whitecaps were matched with Cavalry FC. In the first leg, both teams failed to score. The second leg was a different story, with Cavalry getting the upper hand with two goals. The struggling Whitecaps managed to get only one.
Complete embarrassment for the Whitecaps but it’s a good showcase for the CPL. A league in its infancy now has credibility. It’s unlikely the Cavalry, now the only CPL team in the competition will likely bounce it’s next MLS opponent (Montreal Impact), but this upset could do a lot for recruitment for Cavalry, if not the league as a whole.
But it goes beyond that.
It can draw more fans into the mix when some realize the quality of soccer isn’t as low as many expected of the first-year league. Investors might be more attracted to throw money into teams. It’s going to be a slow ride, but the CPL has announced they mean serious business.