The new format for the Nutrilite Canadian Championship was announced by the Canadian Soccer Association on Friday, with Vancouver Whitecaps FC to take part in a new four-club competition in 2011.
Whitecaps FC, fellow Major League Soccer club Toronto FC, and 2012 MLS expansion side Montreal Impact will all be competing for the Voyageurs Cup - and Canada's lone spot in the CONCACAF Champions League - for a fourth-straight season. They will be joined this year by FC Edmonton, who embark on their inaugural season in the newly-formed North American Soccer League.
"There's been an evolution of the tournament, with FC Edmonton coming in," Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi told whitecapsfc.com. "There will be less games to what there has been in the past, and with it being home-and-home, it's going to put a premium on the two games we play in the semifinals. We'll be making sure we have our best available squad out there for our games against Montreal."
As a result, the old round-robin format of the competition has been replaced by a home-and-away semifinal stage, followed by a home-and-away championship final series. This year's Voyageurs Cup winner will then take part in the 2011-12 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, which will qualify CONCACAF's representative for the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup.
The determination for semi-final pairings was based on the relative Major League Soccer or USSF Division 2 standings from the 2010 regular season. The 2011 seeding was (first to fourth) Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal and Edmonton.
In the semifinals, Whitecaps FC will face the Impact in the first leg at Montreal's Stade Saputo on Wednesday, April 27, before hosting the Quebec-based club at Empire Field on Wednesday, May 4. The other semifinal sees FC Edmonton hosting Toronto FC at Commonwealth Stadium in the first leg on April 27 before the MLS club hosts the decisive second leg at Toronto's BMO Field on May 4. The two-leg championship final series will be played on Wednesday, May 18, and Wednesday, May 25.
Since 2008, Canada's top professional teams have played in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Montreal won the inaugural championship in 2008, while Toronto FC won back-to-back Voyageurs Cup titles in 2009 and 2010.
2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP
First Leg - Wednesday, April 27
Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC - Stade Saputo - Montreal, Quebec
FC Edmonton vs. Toronto FC - Commonwealth Stadium - Edmonton, Alberta
Second Leg - Wednesday, May 4
Toronto FC vs. FC Edmonton - BMO Field - Toronto, Ontario
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Montreal Impact - Empire Field - Vancouver, BC
The highest seeded team in the final will determine whether it opens at home or away.
First Leg - Wednesday, May 18
Second Leg - Wednesday, May 25