When the Montreal Impact meet Club America in the final of the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League, they will represent Canada. However, carrying the Canadian flag into competition hasn't meant the entire country getting behind the Impact. Club allegiances die hard, and at least two other provinces will find it difficult to cheer the Impact on to victory.
"I will absolutely not be cheering for Montreal," explains Toronto supporter Eric Anderton. "Another MLS team at this stage perhaps, but surely Montreal are TFC's biggest rivals. In sports, our cities clash. End of story."
This is an opinion shared by many on the west coast of Canada as well, where the Vancouver Whitecaps and Impact have also developed a fierce rivalry. James Bufton of SB Nation's 86 Forever Vancouver Whitecaps blog is willing to see past the rivalry, however, for what he believes to be the greater good.
"This support comes down to the benefits an Impact win would yield for MLS as a whole," explains Bufton, "and, more importantly, the direction Canadian soccer heads in moving forward."
He cites an alleged incident in 2011 that divides opinion among Vancouver supporters as to whether or not they should cheer for Montreal. During that year's Canadian championship, former Montreal Impact captain Nevio Pizzolitto was accused of spitting on a Vancouver supporter. He was later deemed innocent by a CSA investigation, but there is still bad blood.
"You'll do well to find any warm feeling towards the CCL finalists from Southsiders especially," he says of the well known Vancouver supporter's group, "but there are some who are willing to take a step back from that."
These divided allegiances are a big contrast to 2009 when the Impact, who were a USL-1 side at the time, became the first ever Canadian team to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Of the 55,571 supporters at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal for the away leg that year, many of them belonged to Toronto and Vancouver supporters groups.
There is little to no chance that this history will be repeated during the April 29 second leg of this year's tournament final, at that very same Olympic Stadium. John Richan of SB Nation's Mount Royal Soccer Impact blog believes that this is for two reasons: a better supporter's culture among Canadian teams and more heated rivalries.
"The growth of these rivalries and all of the Canadian teams is only a healthy thing for the game in Canada," he says.
There is also another reason of concern that Richan does not outline, but has been cited by many supporters of national team: difficulty correlating the Impact's success with benefit to Canadian soccer. No Canadian players have been used in big roles by the Impact in this tournament, and many feel winning the Champions League would do a ton more for Major League Soccer than Canadian Soccer.
"I really can't see any benefit to Canadian soccer," explains Anderton. "Montreal winning the cup may be a selling point for future players to join their team but that does absolutely nothing for Canadian soccer."
Fellow Toronto FC supporter Matt Lagrosa disagrees to some extent, although does agree that Montreal's victories have been far more beneficial to MLS than Canadian soccer. He also thinks that Anderton is in the minority of Toronto supporters who are holding on to their loyalties.
"99 per cent of us reds want us to see [the Impact] succeed just for the greater benefit that it will have towards Canadian soccer and growing MLS," explains Lagrosa. "The other 1 per cent is either lying to themselves or just really can't stand anything Montreal related."
As for whether or not the Impact can actually make any noise in the Champions League final against the heavily favoured Club America, that remains to be seen. Richan believes that while Mexican teams have generally dominated this competition, having the second leg at home could help the Impact pull off the unlikely upset. He reminds everyone that the Impact have been here before.
"No one gave Montreal a shot against a high scoring Pachuca side either."