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Voyageurs Cup- is it ready for expansion?

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The Voyageurs Cup recently expanded to a five team tournament, but needs to expand further to truly be a "national competition".

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
With the offseason well underway in Canadian soccer, there will be plenty of discussion regarding transfer rumors, what could have been last year and early predictions for next year. However, one topic that is significant to Canadian soccer and hasn't had much focus lately is the Voyageurs Cup.

While the tournament's name grows in popularity, the amount of clubs that participate in the competition has remained fairly stagnant. Its inaugural campaign saw four Canadian clubs participate, while 2015 had five participants. Compare that to the US Open Cup that featured 91 teams this season and the English FA Cup that had 736 teams enter and it is easy to view the Voyageurs Cup as a minor club tournament. While it is unfair to compare it to competitions that have been around over 100 years, the CSA should still look to expand the cup and make it a true Canadian national tournament.

There are multiple reasons why the expansion of the Voyageurs Cup should be considered by the CSA. Primarily, expansion will allow more that just the "professional clubs" to have a chance at winning Canada's major trophy and it lets smaller clubs across the country potentially play a meaningful match against a big-time Major League Soccer Club in front of over 20,000 fans.

This will provide a major boost in exposure to minor clubs in Canada and produces more competition and motivation for the players on these clubs. A great way to generate money and popularity for amateur clubs is to have them compete among the best of the country. This tournament can also be used as a means to scout top young talent in Canada and allow an amateur player a chance to impress a professional club and get signed to a professional contract or make the Canadian National Team.

Although these instances are a stretch, it would be better to have these situations be improbable rather than impossible. Expanding the competition will also allow the winner to have the privilege of declaring that they are the champions of Canadian soccer and not just the winner of a five-team tournament. Having a competition with plenty of clubs across Canada will mean that winning the tournament is a true national prize and therefore a much greater achievement.

The tournament currently allows all professional clubs across the country to enter its competition. The issue with that is only Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League are regarded as professional leagues by the Canadian Soccer Association, meaning only 5 clubs enter. USL Pro offers 3 professional reserve teams, however these clubs do not enter the competition, as they are not independent clubs.

Canada does have a few USL PDL clubs that are top amateur clubs along with provincial first division leagues across the nation. While it may be too early for 2016, it is possible that the 2017 edition of the Voyagers Cup could feature these clubs. While having all clubs travel across the country to compete in knockout competition is unfeasible, Canada can allow the winner of each provincial championship in 2016 and each independent PDL team enter the competition.

This technically means all senior amateur teams are eligible to enter the competition, however only the winners do. The qualifying rounds could have the 10 provincial winners and 5 PDL teams play in knockout rounds until 3 teams are left and advance to the quarterfinals where the 5 professional clubs enter. While not suggesting this is the best way to expand the tournament, it should definitely be considered, as it will add to the intensity of the Voyageurs Cup.

The best scenario for the Voyageurs Cup would be addition of a Canadian League in 2017 which will allow several more professional clubs to enter the tournament and make it truly competitive. This will instantly add 8-10 professional clubs to the Voyageurs Cup and would also make it more likely that a PDL team could upset a Canadian League team or a Canadian League team upsets and NASL team and so on. The Canadian League would close the major gap that exists in the Canadian Soccer Pyramid and would ultimately make the Voyageurs Cup a true national competition across Canada.

There are many possible scenarios for the future of the Voyageurs Cup and it is very difficult to determine when and how is the best time to expand the competition. The one thing we can all count on is that 2016will certainly be a challenging tournament fueled by heated rivalries and special moments that will end with one championship team.