I think it is safe to say we are over the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) debacle. TFC deserved the right to represent Canada in the tournament with their 2016 Voyageurs Cup win. But that debate has been officially put to bed. With their triumph at BMO Field on Tuesday night in front of close to 27,000 fans, TFC has now repeated as champions and will represent Canada with pride in the 2018 CCL.
We can now exhale.
That being said, it has been a while. Montreal and Vancouver have performed valiantly during TFC’s absence with deep runs which captivated their fan bases, and even the country as a whole. They represented MLS very well. Much more so than our American counterparts.
For this tournament to start gaining traction and credibility in soccer circles, MLS teams must start making finals consistently and winning them. Often enough, this tournament has been a stroll in the park for the Mexican sides. Once MLS teams begin to make breakthroughs, it will be taken more seriously.
There have been a countless number reasons and excuses why MLS sides perform poorly in the CCL – not enough talent, lack of depth, the importance of MLS success, a defeatist attitude etc. MLS desperately wants success in this tournament. It will give the league validation that it is on its way to being one of the best in the world. A showcase in the FIFA Club World Cup would be a tasty cherry on that sundae.
There is much talk around soccer circles about TFC. Some are saying it is currently the most talented team in MLS. Many are saying it is the deepest team the league has ever seen. I think it is time that we find out.
TFC has ambition. There is a vision at the club to grow the brand and make it global. They are fixated on it. It has been spoken from the top all the way down to the players in the locker room. If you want to do just that, and you are an MLS club, the CCL is currently the only gateway to that world. TFC wants to be in this tournament. They want to prove a point. They want to rub elbows with the world’s greatest clubs. The CCL will not be treated as second class when they get there.
TFC’s core can compete with Liga MX clubs. Combine that with their squad depth and it increases their chances for success. Mexican teams are not known for their defending, and Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore would be a handful for their backlines. Victor Vazquez’s technique and vision would garner much attention in Mexican tactics. Michael Bradley’s mentality is contagious, and would help navigate the team through strenuous moments in matches and hostile environments.
Could they crash out early? Sure. Tournament soccer allows for that. A red card here and a dubious penalty call there could turn a bracket upside down. We have all seen enough examples to give us sleepless nights. The chances of that are minimal though. You have to bet on yourself and believe your talent will carry you through. This is the best ever version of TFC. They might also be MLS’s best shot, and the league office knows it.
TFC wants this. MLS wants this. As Canadian Soccer fans, we should all want it too.
By William Jamieson