Canada: Toronto favourites to win Voyageurs Cup title
The Nutrilite Canadian Championship kicks off on Wednesday with defending champions Toronto FC favourites to hold on to their title. The format of the tournament has changed from a round-robin involving three teams to a straight knockout format involving four thanks to the inclusion of FC Edmonton alongside traditional entrants Toronto, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact.
Major League Soccer (MLS) club Toronto FC, currently led by former Dutch international Aron Winter, are the defending Canadian champions having won back-to-back Voyageurs Cups in 2009 and 2010. They will face tournament new boys FC Edmonton in the semi-final and will be overwhelming favourites to reach the final given their considerable experience. FC Edmonton, who were formed only last year, have started life in America’s second-tier football competition, the North American Soccer League (NASL), rather well in 2011 having won two of their first three games and will have no pressure going into their maiden domestic championship campaign.
In the other semi-final Montreal Impact, inaugural winners of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship in 2008, are another NASL team facing off against a more-fancied MLS outfit, namely Vancouver Whitecaps. However this will not be the case beyond this year as Montreal have been given clearance to become the newest member of MLS in 2012. Nonetheless this tie will still interest many due to the current standards of both set-ups. Montreal are winless after three games in the 2011 NASL season whilst Vancouver may only have won just one match out of their first seven in their maiden MLS campaign but that came against fellow Canadians Toronto FC.
Should the two MLS sides qualify for the final, as many pundits expect, then it would be fascinating to see whether Vancouver would hold the Indian sign over Toronto. Would Toronto’s 2011 MLS season opening match blip at the hands of their compatriots be the prime motivation for a spot of revenge? Or can any of the NASL teams upset the big boys and reach the final?
2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALS (seedings in brackets)
27/04/11 Montreal Impact (3) v Vancouver Whitecaps (2)
27/04/11 FC Edmonton (4) v Toronto FC (1)
04/05/11 Vancouver Whitecaps v Montreal Impact
04/05/11 Toronto FC v FC Edmonton
2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL (Highest seed away in first leg)
18/05/11 – First Leg
25/05/11 – Second Leg