Meet Tonight; Playing for chance to represent Canada
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact are old rivals, but they will breath new life into their combative relationship tonight at Montreal's Saputo Stadium.
The United Soccer Leagues squads are meeting for the first time in Nutrilite Canadian Championship play, a competition that also includes Major League Soccer's Toronto FC and will determine the Canadian qualifier for the CONCACAF Champions League.
Toronto FC beat Montreal 1-0 to open the series on May 27, while Vancouver is playing its first of four games.
"I know what Champions League means to players and clubs in Europe and this is absolutely the same for us," Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson said.
"It's a different experience, and that is huge."
Certainly for the players it's huge. Although USL and its clubs don't report salaries, various sources have average contracts pegged at approximately $3,000 per month with terms running the length of the season.
Advancing all the way to the Champions League knockout stages means playing well beyond early October, when the USL playoffs wrap up.
Teams would have to train for February games and could still be competing in April, meaning some much-welcomed cash is on the line. "Being able to play in those months, that's something that's never happened before for us," said forward Eddy Sebrango. "So we're taking it very seriously and we want to win. I think it's going to be more pressure [than the league]."
Management of the three Canadian teams who, along with the Canadian Soccer Association, worked in partnership to develop the championship are hoping it is also a big hit with fans.
For the Whitecaps, the competition could provide a boost in local interest in advance of a possible move to MLS, depending on how far they advance.
"It would be great to play against a Mexican side or a Costa Rican side and see how you measure up," midfielder Martin Nash said.
"There's a little bit of bragging rights, too," to be the Canadian qualifier, he said.
Coming off a loss in their last USL game, the league-leading Whitecaps (7-3-1) should be doubly motivated against Montreal (3-6-2), a team they have a win and a tie against this season.