Saturday sees the curtain drop on an eventful second regular season in Major League Soccer for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and while next week’s historic playoff tilt is the focus for many who follow the Blue and White, there is something to play for at Real Salt Lake.
Building momentum towards next Thursday’s First Round Knockout match at LA Galaxy is one key objective at Rio Tinto Stadium this weekend, while the opportunity to shape their 2013 season will be another focus of Martin Rennie’s side.
Going into this final weekend of the 2012 regular season, Whitecaps FC and MLS expansion side Montreal Impact are deadlocked in the race for the top seed in the 2013 Amway Canadian Championship (ACC).
Since 2011, when second-tier North American Soccer League (NASL) side FC Edmonton entered the competition, seedings have been used to determine the semifinal series pairings for Canada’s annual CONCACAF Champions League qualifying tournament.
In determining the ACC seedings, the regular season records of the four participating clubs (Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver in MLS; Edmonton in NASL) are used.
In next year’s ACC semifinals, the top seed will face fourth seed FC Edmonton over two legs, while the second seed will face four-time Voyageurs Cup holders (ACC champions) and third seed Toronto FC over two legs.
The semifinals will take place on April 24, 2013 (first leg) and May 1, 2013 (second leg), with the ACC final series set for May 15, 2013 (first leg) and May 29, 2013 (second leg).
The Voyageurs Cup winner will represent Canada in the 2013-14 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, which in turn, will determine CONCACAF’s representative for the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.
Tied on 42 points with one match remaining, Montreal lead Vancouver for the top ACC ranking on the strength of the first MLS standings tiebreaker: Goals For. The Impact have scored 45 goals to this stage, while Whitecaps FC have registered 35 goals during their regular season campaign.
Despite a commanding ‘Goals For’ position, Montreal missed out on a chance to secure the top seed in next year’s ACC after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Eastern Conference rivals New England Revolution in their season finale at Stade Saputo on Saturday afternoon.
Thanks to New England's win in Montreal, Whitecaps FC can earn the top ACC seed for 2013 with a win or draw in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday night (6 p.m. PT - Sportsnet ONE; Bell Mobile TV; MLS LIVE; TEAM 1410 and teamradio.ca).
With several MLS Cup Playoff seedings still to be determined in both the Eastern and Western Conferences, this weekend is shaping up to be an interesting conclusion to the 2012 regular season.