Bragging rights and pride will be on the line when Toronto FC hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps Wednesday night in the opening game of the 2009 Canadian club championship.
The Montreal Impact won the tournament last year and went on to represent Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League making it all the way to the quarter-finals before being beaten by Santos of Mexico.
Toronto lost 1-0 to Vancouver at home en route to finishing second in last year's Canadian championship, a result that dealt a hammer blow to the Major League Soccer club's pride.
Canadian club championship
The Canadian club championship is a three-team round-robin tournament involving Toronto FC (Canada's lone representative of the 15 teams in Major League Soccer), the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps, who compete in the USL First Division (one level below MLS).
The competition also serves as the Canadian qualifying tournament for the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Canadian club championship runs through June 18, with each team hosting two games. The top team in the final standings will be Canada's representative at the CONCACAF Champions League, an international club competition that crowns the best pro team in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The CONCACAF Champions League winner then goes on to play at the FIFA World Club Championship in the United Arab Emirates in December 2009 against continental champions from Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. English giants Manchester United won the 2008 FIFA World Club Championship.
The Impact won last year's innaurgural Canadian club championship.
Winning the 2009 competition won't be easy for Toronto, especially because it has seven games in the month of May — five in MLS and two in the Canadian championship — but coach Chris Cummins isn't worried about the hectic schedule.
"Whatever league you are in you have to play a lot of games," Cummins told Toronto FC's official website.
"We're going out there to win the game. I'm not going to leave players out of the side just to rest them for the weekend. If there are players that aren't ready for the game then I won't play them but I will manage all of them individually and if they are fit and ready to go they will play."
After under-performing in last year's tournament, Toronto FC midfielder Carl Robinson said he and his teammates are anxious to make amends.
"It means a great deal to us," said Robinson. "This is a massive tournament for us and we've got to put a few things right after last year when we should have won the tournament and everyone expected us to win but we didn't.
"We've got to make sure that we go into this game full of confidence and in a lively manner to make sure we get off to a good start."
Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson said his players can't wait to take to the field for Wednesday night's game.
"Definitely. I'm glad that Chris [Cummins] hasn't been in our dressing room," the Icelandic coach said. "Because that's on fire. Absolutely. We are looking very much forward to the game and everybody is excited about it. And everybody is ready to perform."
Toronto hosts the Montreal Impact on May 13 in the next game of the Canadian club championship.