An exquisite left-footed strike at the death by Will Johnson sealed the deal – an act of bravery that came with a just reward. The Voyageurs Cup shockingly snatched from the clutches of the Vancouver Whitecaps in front of a stunned crowd at BC Place. What a moment.
The trophy wasn’t the only prize won on the night. So was a place in the CONCACAF Champions League. A spot reserved for the best in Canadian soccer. It has been like this for a long time. One of the honours of being the best and something to look forward to.
Or so we thought.
We have known for some time that a change has been on the horizon for the CCL. It is a welcomed change. There will be an increased number of teams with a greater emphasis on the knock-out format. High leverage matches will take place from the outset. Done is the tedious group stage portion. But the most important feature will be a greater alignment with the MLS calendar.
This new format put the CSA in a bit of a dilemma. Toronto FC’s win of the 2016 Canadian Championship was supposed to qualify them for the 2017 CCL. But with the delay of the new CCL season pushed back to February of 2018, there will have been another Canadian Championship played with potentially, another winner. I know we would all love the possibility of 2 Canadian teams in the CCL, but that is a whole other debate entirely. The CSA had to do something.
The CSA decided to strip TFC of the honour and right of participating in the 2018 CCL. Instead, they will have them host a match between themselves and the eventual winner of the 2017 Canadian Championship. A one match playoff for the right to represent Canada in the revamped edition of the 2018 CCL.
Really? Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you.
Winning the Canadian Championship on its own should be enough of an honour, but I totally understand that the CSA had to do something. They had to give this year’s version of the Canadian Championship a boost, and still have that CCL spot as a carrot to dangle for the participants. But to take the spot from TFC and make them have to earn it again is wrong. Every club that participated in last year’s Canadian Championship went into the competition with the full understanding that a CCL spot was part of the package. For all of the great things that the CSA has done over the last couple of years, they dropped the ball on this one.
The Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps are secretly loving this behind the scenes. I would assume their fans are too. This gives them another kick at the can for the CCL berth. But place yourself in TFC’s shoes or put on your empathy caps. What if this happened to your club? You would feel just as aggrieved.
This is what I feel the CSA should’ve done instead.
The CSA should be lobbying to enter next year’s CCL with 2 entrants, even if it were for one year only. I mean, we do have the right guy at the top of the CONCACAF mountain – Victor Montagliani – to listen to the argument. Or at the very least, the potential 2017 Voyageurs Cup winner should be given a playoff spot with the other Central American and Carribbean clubs for phase 1 of the tournament this fall – this will lead to a qualifying spot for the 2018 CCL. Both of my proposals are better options. There is no proof that these alternatives were explored because one would think that the CSA would’ve been vocal about it. Instead they decided to punish one of their own and muddy the waters of trust.
In the end, this will all be meaningless if TFC wins this year’s Canadian Championship, because hosting a match against yourself is impossible. TFC now will be looking to repeat as champions, and hoist the Voyageurs Cup for a sixth time.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be more determined than ever to do it.
By William Jamieson