FIFA trophy

Whitecaps FC set sail on FIFA journey

Why is soccer considered the global game? For starters, every country in the world plays the sport, from Canada to the Cayman Islands, England to Egypt, Spain to Sudan, no country is left on the sidelines. But what makes it even more fascinating is the fact that every professional team on the planet is connected and competing for the same ultimate goal. Christopher Bromley explains:

Today, four Canadian teams push off from shore and set course on a journey that could see them competing with some of the top soccer clubs in the world. Not only will the winners of the Amway Canadian Championship have the distinction of being the cream-of-the-crop domestically, but they will receive a golden opportunity, an invitation from the fraternity of soccer nations to see just how well club football in Canada measures up to other territories in the CONCACAF brotherhood, and possibly even the entire FIFA realm.

Right now, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are but one wave in an ocean of teams competing worldwide. Over the next 17 months, each team’s crest will either swell in stature by capturing their domestic, league, and regional titles, or be swept under by the competition. For teams across the globe like Whitecaps FC, what begins as a ripple in our own pond could eventually build enough momentum to carry them to the shores of Morocco for the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup.

Should Whitecaps FC capture the glory of the Canadian Championship, the win would secure one of 24 berths into the CONCACAF Champions League to compete against the highest-ranking clubs in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Each of the six FIFA sanctioned confederations hold their own Champions League tournament (such as the UEFA Champions League in Europe) with the winners - along with the domestic champion of host nation Morocco - filling out the seven-team format of the FIFA Club World Cup.

Fully understanding the scope of the FIFA Club World Cup requires a little imagination, as the sheer number of clubs vying for the chance to compete for the title is as vast as the sea itself. While the Canadian Championship is presently only a four-team tournament, other domestic cups - such as America's Lamar Hunt US Open Cup - host upwards of 64 competitors for one berth to the CONCACAF Champions League. Multiply that number by every country within the CONCACAF confederation, then multiply again by the five other FIFA confederations, and you will begin to have a semblance of just how massive the FIFA Club World Cup truly is.

However, with great adversity comes great glory, and glory may very well be on the horizon for one fortunate Canuck club. While the exact route to the FIFA Club World Cup has yet to be charted for a Canadian or United States team since the competition began in 2005, that’s not to say that a few Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs haven’t come close to navigating the way. Just this past month, Toronto FC got as far as the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, only to see their hopes sunk by Mexican Primera División side Club Santos Laguna. In 2011, MLS club Real Salt Lake were only a draw away from securing their place in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup. They too would crash on the rocks before reaching their destination, but positives were drawn, as many within the MLS community supported them in their quest, even using a #MLS4RSL hashtag on Twitter.

It goes without saying that there is a great deal of national, regional, and league pride at stake in these competitions and friendly shores will be few and far between to whichever team can pilot their way through the Amway Canadian Championship and into the CONCACAF Champions League. Teams will be tested and any cracks in theirs masts or leaks in their hulls should be addressed now, because once their ship sails, the journey is unforgiving.

For now though, putting down the telescope to focus on the tournament at hand. Beginning tonight, four crews board the Amway Canadian Championship. Three clubs will sink and one will swim. The question is, how far?