Canadian Championship

Canadian Championship

Formed as a competition in 2008, the Amway Canadian Championship (formerly the Nutrilite Canadian Championship) was developed by the Canadian Soccer Association along with four of Canada’s professional clubs including three Major League Soccer (MLS) teams - Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC as well as FC Edmonton of the North American Soccer League (NASL). Currently in its fourth year of existence, the winner of the annual tournament not only claims the Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions, they also earn Canada’s lone spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. A 24-club competition that involves the top sides from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, the CONCACAF Champions League qualifies the confederation’s representative for the annual FIFA Club World Cup.

The first Canadian Championship tournament took place in 2008, with Montreal surprising many by claiming the inaugural title ahead of the more-fancied Toronto FC. The Whitecaps campaign that year did not go according to plan, as a pair of defeats to the Impact left Vancouver with an uphill battle to win the Voyageurs Cup. To their credit, the ‘Caps did play an important role in the eventual outcome of the 2008 tournament after claiming a famous away win over Toronto FC before drawing with the MLS club at Swangard Stadium. Montreal went on to have an impressive campaign in the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League, as they reached the quarterfinals.

The 2009 competition started disappointingly for the Whitecaps following a tournament-opening defeat at Toronto FC. Vancouver would bounce back to challenge the MLS club for the title after back-to-back wins over Montreal, and a famous 2-0 victory over TFC at Swangard. Despite those efforts, the ‘Caps missed out on winning the Voyageurs Cup on goal difference, as Toronto FC recorded a remarkable 6-1 win over the Impact in Montreal in the competition’s final match. TFC went on to the preliminary round of the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League as Canadian champions, where they failed to reach the competition’s group stages after losing 1-0 on aggregate to Puerto Rico Islanders.

The 2010 Canadian Championship saw the Whitecaps go undefeated in four tournament matches, but again come up short to Toronto FC for the national crown. The ‘Caps began the tournament with two home matches, a 1-1 draw with Montreal and a 0-0 result against TFC. Vancouver looked to be on their way to a crucial away win at Montreal in their third match, but the Impact came back for a 1-1 draw that ended the ‘Caps title hopes and handed TFC the Voyageurs Cup for the second straight season. The blue and white finished with a 0-0 result in Toronto, giving them four draws in four matches. TFC improved their performance in the regional tournament, making the group stage of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, but failed to make it to the knockout round.

In 2011 the inclusion of FC Edmonton to the annual tournament lead to a switch from the previous round-robin format which was replaced by a home-and-away semifinal stage, followed by a home-and-away championship final series. In their first Canadian Championship tournament as an MLS club, Vancouver Whitecaps FC held a one goal lead over Montreal Impact after the first leg of the semifinals at Stade Saputo. During the second leg at their home stadium Empire Field, Vancouver gave up a late penalty to make the series 1-1 on aggregate, but pulled off some late heroics by scoring a goal in overtime to clinch a place in the final series by a score of 2-1 on aggregate.   Toronto FC had a clean sweep in their two semi-final matches against FC Edmonton defeating the NASL side 0-3 in Edmonton before taking the series 4-0 on aggregate at BMO Field. The final series between Vancouver and Toronto began with a 1-1 draw between the two MLS sides at Empire Field. The ‘Caps looked on their way to securing their first ever championship, leading in  the second-leg match by a score of 1-0 after 60 minutes at BMO field before the game was abandoned due to unplayable field conditions. Those ambitions were short lived as TFC went on to defeat Whitecaps FC 2-1 in the rescheduled second-leg match to win the series by a score of 3-2 on aggregate. It was the third straight Voyageurs Cup for TFC who also received the lone berth into the CONCACAF Champions League.   After defeating Real Esteli of Nicaragua in preliminary qualifying, Toronto FC placed second in Group C of the CONCACAF Champions League, to advance to the quarterfinals against MLS side LA Galaxy. TFC recorded a surprising 4-3 aggregate win over their highly-fancied American rivals, but their campaign ended in the semifinals against Mexican club Santos Laguna, losing 7-3 on aggregate which included a 6-2 drubbing in the second leg in Torreon.

The 2012 Amway Canadian Championship (ACC) again featured a four-team format with clubs being seeded based on their 2011 league results in Major League Soccer (MLS) and the North American Soccer League (NASL) respectively. Western Canadian foes Vancouver Whitecaps FC and FC Edmonton squared off for the first time over two legs on May 2 and 9, with Whitecaps FC eliminating the Alberta club 5-1 on aggregate. Meanwhile, Three-time defending champions Toronto FC ousted Canadian rivals Montreal Impact courtesy of a 2-0 home win in the second leg. The first leg of the ACC final occurred on May 16 at BC Place, with Whitecaps FC needing a stoppage time equalizer from Eric Hassli to take a 1-1 draw to BMO Field for the second leg. On home turf, TFC made it four Canadian Championships thanks to a late goal from midfielder Reggie Lambe. At the CONCACAF Champions League, TFC bowed out in the group stage at the hands of new nemesis Santos Laguna.

The 2013 ACC followed the same format from the previous year with clubs being seeded based on their 2012 league results. Because Whitecaps FC finished with the best record, they began their ACC run against FC Edmonton in the two-legged semifinal while Toronto FC met Montreal Impact in the other.   On April 24, Whitecaps FC ACC run began with a 3-2 win over FC Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium and on May 1 ended with a 2-0 win at BC Place to secure their spot in the final against Montreal Impact. The Impact defeated ACC five-time defending champions Toronto FC in the final leg, after TFC took the first game at BMO Field 2-0, to end their semifinal playoff game 6-0 which secured the Impact to a place in the final on a 6-2 aggregate. Heading to the final ACC home-and-away series for the fifth consecutive time since 2009, the ‘Caps played to a 0-0 draw against Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo on May 15. The final took place two weeks later on May 29 at BC Place where the Impact came from behind thanks to a Hassoun Camara header in the 84th minute to secure a 2-2 draw and earn the Impact the Voyageurs Cup title by virtue of away goals. In the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League, Montreal were unable to make it out of the group stages even though all three teams were tied on six points, the bowed out over goal differential.    Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC squared off in the 2014 ACC semifinals, with the first leg finishing with a 2-1 win for the Reds at BMO Field on May 7. Whitecaps FC took the second leg 2-1 at BC Place on May 16. With the series even following the second match, the two sides went to extra time, and then a shootout to determine which team would move on. Toronto came out on top, converting all five of their penalties to advance to the finals. In the finals, the first leg resulted in a 1-1 draw at BMO Field on May 28. In the last match of the competition on June 7, Montreal came away with a 1-0 win at Stade Saputo to advance to the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League.

2015 was finally a breakthrough year for the ‘Caps in the Amway Canadian Championship. In the semifinal round against NASL side FC Edmonton, the ‘Caps were dealt a challenge with a snowstorm in Alberta reversing the fixtures and seeing Vancouver host the first leg and travel on the road for the second match. After a 1-1 draw at BC Place, Matias Laba scored a dramatic stoppage time winning goal in Edmonton to send the Blue and White to the finals. The ‘Caps then faced Montreal Impact and earned a 2-2 draw in Quebec. The decisive second leg was played at BC Place as the ‘Caps won 2-0 to capture the club’s first ever Voyageurs Cup title and a spot in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League.

Looking to defend their Voyageurs Cup, Vancouver came from behind to defeat Ottawa Fury FC  to clinch a return trip to the finale in 2016. However, they agonizingly saw Toronto FC steal victory in the second leg of the 2-16 Amway Canadian Championship final when Will Johnson fired a spilled ball into the net in the dying second of the match after a collision between 'Caps goalkeeper David Ousted and centre back Kendall Waston.   As of the conclusion of the 2016 season, Toronto FC lead the competition with five Amway Canadian Championship victories. Montreal Impact have three, while the ‘Caps have one. FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury FC have yet to secure the Voyageurs Cup.

2017 saw Whitecaps FC fall to Montreal Impact in their semifinal series. The 'Caps took the first leg at home 2-1, but were eliminated 5-4 on aggregate after losing 4-2 to Montreal in the second leg. Toronto FC would defeat Montreal Impact in the final series, en route to TFC securing the treble, also winning the MLS Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup.