From Halifax Wanderers all the way to Langford’s Pacific FC, the Canadian Championship is a yearly tournament to determine which is the best soccer team in Canada. It’s our country’s FA Cup and we love it.
This year 14 teams will fight for the Voyageur’s Cup. The three Major League Soccer sides join the eight Canadian Premier League teams, League1 Ontario winners Vaughan Azzurri, League1 Quebec winners Laval, and the first ever League1 BC Champions, TSS Rovers.
Swangard Stadium last hosted a Canadian Championship game back in May 2010 when the then NASL side Vancouver Whitecaps faced off against Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC. On that day, despite playing in a lower league, the Whitecaps were able to hold TFC to a stalemate. April 19th will see a similar David vs. Goliath match-up as the Rovers hope to advance past Winnipeg’s Valour FC. And given that every game is a do or die affair with the winner advancing and the loser being eliminated, anything can happen.
The only certainty you can take from past competitions is that outcomes are always impossible to predict, as the Whitecaps loss to Pacific FC is testament to. In cup competitions, there are bound to be upsets and high drama along the way, shoot-outs, and extra-time heroics when an extra 30 minutes is allowed.
The mandate of TSS Rovers is to develop players. As coach Will Cromack explains, “the idea of the club itself is to try to help guys get themselves to Pro”. And they have been very successful in this enterprise. In the last five years, no less than 21 players have gone on to turn pro from the Rovers’ men’s and women’s sides, including men’s national team defender Joel Waterman and Julia Grosso, who famously scored the penalty kick in Toyko that gave Canada their first Olympic gold soccer medal.
This year, the young Rovers players have a unique chance to showcase their talent thanks to the exposure that competing in the National Championship provides. According to Cromack, “they have the opportunity to go and prove that they can be there and maybe someone will tap them on the shoulder and take them one day.”
It has happened before. Canadian National team defender Alistair Johnston went from playing for League1 Ontario’s Vaughan in the Canadian Championship to a brief MLS career. Four years later, on the heels of an impressive World Cup performance, he suits up for Scotland’s largest and most successful club, Celtic. At just 15 years old, Canadian superstar Alphonso Davies played his first professional game in this competition. Three years later, he won the European Championship with Bayern Munich. There is no better place for a Canadian to build their reputation.
However, it’s not just the players who can advance their fortunes through the tournament. Beyond being crowned the Kings of the North and lifting the Voyageurs Cup, whichever team wins the Canadian Championship also qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament that determines the best team in on the continent. Just competing in that competition adds to a club’s prestige and renown.
Although no team from Canada has ever won that competition, if teams like the Rovers continue to get opportunities to test their mettle against top opposition they will continue to develop better and better players which can only strengthen every part of the Canadian Soccer pyramid going forward.
If you want to see the future stars of Canadian soccer, tickets for the April 19th match are still available HERE. Let’s fill Swangard and create those magic evenings of yesteryear.
The game will also be broadcast on Onesoccer.ca, Telus 980 and Fubo.tv for those that can’t attend.