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Why There is Nothing Wrong With The Voyageurs Cup

Many have maligned the format of the Canadian tournament, but as Club soccer in Canada stands right now it is the only format that really makes any sense.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

While the Montreal Impact were trying in vain to overcome Club America to win the CONCACAF Champions League, any competition outside of MLS was an afterthought in Toronto. All of the focus was on how Toronto would finish up their road swing, with nary a mention about the fact that less than a week later the reds would meet those very same Impact in the Voyageurs Cup.

The competition was also an afterthought in Sunday’s column from Toronto Sun writer Kurt Larson, who even subtitled the section "don’t forget Wednesday".

Even further below the lede were quick paragraphs about the competition itself, where Larson called the Voyageurs Cup "stale", saying that the four extra games don’t make sense for MLS teams. He proposes an inter-league tournament in line with the Cascadia Cup, and cutting out NASL.

Larson would be right, if the focus of the Voyageurs Cup was on the Canadian MLS teams. It’s not, this tournament is, and always has been, about the development of club soccer in the country.

If we are talking about things that don’t make sense, try this on for size: alienating the NASL who have been nothing to willing partners for Canadian club soccer. Reports have indicated that FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury are only the start of the league’s involvement north of the border.

Even without whispers that part of Canada’s bid for the 2026 World Cup will include a Canadian league that partners with the NASL, league commissioner Bill Peterson has talked about putting at least two more expansion sides in the great white north.

It’s not like NASL teams haven’t been competitive in the Voyageurs Cup either, in fact the tournament has quite the history of success for lower league clubs.

Most forget that last year FC Edmonton should have beaten the eventual CCL runner-up Montreal Impact if it wasn’t for a ridiculous penalty kick call late in the match. It should have been them in the final against Toronto.

Those very same Montreal Impact won the inaugural Voyageurs Cup as an USL-1 side before making it all the way to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

In fact, what was stale about the Voyageurs Cup was the tournament before the NASL was involved. Now that there is a distinct tournament format and not a confusing three team table the event has been significantly more exciting.

Sure, eventually it would be nice to add more teams but that will be done through NASL expansion into Canada. Dipping further into the USA soccer pyramid would make zero sense considering all three teams have a development squad in those leagues.

Looking down the Canadian pyramid makes even less sense. The Canadian Soccer League is no longer sanctioned by FIFA and for good reason as it has long been a cancer in the countries soccer system. Meanwhile League 1 Ontario wouldn't make sense for obvious reasons.

Then there is the roster argument, the fact that a CCL spot should be decided by a team playing their best roster. Sure using league matches to decide who qualifies would ensure team's play their best players, but once again it wouldn't help Canadian soccer.

This tournament in recent years has become a showcase for young Canadian players looking to take the step to the top division and beyond in Canada. Last year it was Marco Carducci, among other talented young Whitecaps, and Hanson Boakai of FC Edmonton who exploded onto the Voyageurs Cup stage.

Finally, before saying that four extra games have a propensity to hurt the Canadian MLS clubs remember this: the Seattle Sounders played five games in the US Open last year and still won the league’s supporter’s shield.

The Canadian championship isn't perfect in its current form, but it remains entertaining and is in fact improving from what it has been in the past. Until the NASL expands further into Canada, the current format makes the most sense and does the most good for the sport in this country.