2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP DETAILS
The Three Kings of Canadian Soccer will have a new partner in the pro ranks. Vancouver Whitecaps. Montreal Impact and Toronto FC will have another club to kick about in this seasons edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
The NCC has a new look a new format, oh and a new team too: FC Edmonton. The fledgling Alberta team will round out the field of teams to four, in this the fourth edition of the competition.
The newcomers, playing their inaugural season in the North American Soccer League, will go into the new style tournament as the fourth seed and play defending champions and number 1 seeded Toronto FC in a home and home semifinal series opening Wednesday, April 27 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
On the same night, Montreal Impact will host Vancouver Whitecaps in the other semifinal first leg at Stade Saputo.
The following Wednesday, the teams will play the second legs of the Semifinal ties, setting up a two-legged Final, which will be played on May 18 and 25.
The Impact won the first-ever Nutrilite Canadian Championship and their seventh Voyageurs Cup in 2008, but MLS side Toronto FC have taken the last two tournaments. In the past three seasons the competition was a round robin with each team playing the other twice, home and away, but the addition of FC Edmonton changes all that.
The NASL expansion team jons Division Two just as one of Canada’s most storied teams makes the jump from that division to Major League Soccer. Vancouver Whitecaps, have yet to win the Voyageurs Cup, but this season will bring a different view on the tournament. Expectations will be on Vancouver, now a member of the top flight, to finally bring home the Cup.
Edmonton may not know what they are getting themselves into. The history and rivalry on and off the field has made the NCC very passionate and watchable. Much of the drama has been, in part, caused by the three-team format. It was possible that a team vying for the title could be dormant in the final round of the round robin. Meaning that a team that wasn’t in contention could help decide the title by choosing their best XI or unloading their reserve side onto the pitch.
This happened in the 2009 edition of the tournament, as Montreal fielded a very weak team in the final match of the tournament against Toronto FC.
Vancouver knew that only a blowout win for Toronto FC would cost them their first Canadian Championship. This made little difference to the Impact, who sat virtually all of their starters, stating that they had no chance to win the tournament and wanted to focus their energy on the regular league season.
The result was a 6-1 thrashing by Toronto FC who took the Championship on goal difference over Vancouver. Vancouver howled, Montreal shrugged and Toronto celebrated. The fans fumed about the format and the conduct of the teams, which lead to a war of words in the press. The incident also earned the young NCC quite a bit of press, if for other reasons than the on-field performances. Even so, the 2010 edition of the tournament was watched by a wider audience as a result.
On the other hand, maybe that kind of spotlight is exactly what FC Edmonton is counting on. The national media attention and awareness of the older, more established fan bases in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, may be the exact champagne bottle needed to launch a successful FC Edmonton. FCE is certainly aware of this as as they have scheduled their April 27 opening NCC match against TFC at massive Commonwealth Stadium in hope of attracting an equally massive crowd. Something the fledgling club will need if they are to live up to the standards, traditions and successes of the three kings of Canadian Soccer.
In addition to the trophy and Canadian bragging rights, the winner also represents Canada in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions Cup, which begins this fall.
2011 NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP COMPLETE SCHEDULE
Home teams listed first.
Seeding in parenthesis.
First Leg – Wednesday, April 27
Montréal Impact (3) v Vancouver Whitecaps (2)
FC Edmonton (4) v Toronto FC (1)
Second Leg – Wednesday, May 4
Toronto FC (1) v FC Edmonton (4)
Vancouver Whitecaps (2) v Montréal Impact (3)
The highest seeded team in the final will determine whether it opens at home or away
First Leg – Wednesday, May 18
Second Leg – Wednesday, May 25