Whitecaps FC 2 have one hurdle left in between them and the USL Cup Final and interestingly, it's one with a strong Canadian influence - from their roster to their manager.
Swope Park Rangers, Sporting Kansas City's first-year USL affiliate, is headed by Montreal native and former Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos.
Previously with Ottawa Fury FC, Dos Santos was named 2015 North American Soccer League Coach of the Year prior to taking the reins in Kansas City. In 2008, he coached Montreal Impact to the first-ever Canadian Championship, including a pair of 2-0 wins over the 'Caps that were led by Jay Nolly, Martin Nash, and Jason Jordan.
Lining up opposite WFC2 for Rangers are defenders Amer Didic and Johnny Grant, defender/midfielder Tyler Pasher, and forward Mark Anthony Gonzalez, each of whom hail from the Great White North.
Born in Bosnia and raised in Edmonton, Didic developed within the FC Edmonton Academy before playing four years of college soccer in Kansas. He made his first-team debut with Sporting KC this year, and played both of their matches versus Whitecaps FC in CONCACAF Champions League play (pictured on right).
Grant, Ontario-born and bred, began his professional career in Canada with Sigma FC in the League1 Ontario Division. The 6-foot-2 defender joined FC Montreal in May 2015, before signing with Swope Park ahead of this year. Internationally, Grant received his first call-up to the Canadian senior national team in January 2015 and is waiting to make his first cap. Grant also represented Canada in the Pan American Games in July 2015, and in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers.
Hailing from Ontario as well is Pasher, who spent seven years developing within Newcastle United FC Academy. Remarkably, it was 'Caps centre back David Edgar's father, Eddie, who connected Pasher with the club. Wishing to return to his native land, Pasher joined the Toronto FC Academy in 2010, making his first-team debut in a friendly versus Liverpool. He's had a number of call-ups to the Canadian senior national team, including as an injury replacement for WFC defender Sam Adekugbe in March 2015, but has yet to make his first appearance. Like Didic, Pasher played against Whitecaps FC in the CCL last month.
Gonzalez, born and raised in Ontario, was teammates with Grant on Sigma FC in 2014. Swope Park's leader in goals in the regular season with nine, the 22-year-old forward also spent time with the Toronto FC Academy in the USL Premier Development League in 2015, making seven appearances and striking three times.
With WFC2 powered by a number of young Canadian talent of their own in Brett Levis, Daniel Haber, Kianz Froese, and Marco Bustos among others, Saturday's do-or-die matchup could very well be a preview of what's to come in Canada soccer.
Don't miss the future. Kickoff this Saturday is at 5:30 p.m. on whitecapsfc2.com.