In light of rumblings about a new Canadian Premier League (CPL), there comes the opportunity to discuss what a national league could mean for the expansion of the Voyageurs Cup (Amway Canadian Championship). As it stands currently, there are only five competing clubs in the competition. There are three teams from MLS (Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Montreal Impact) and two teams from the NASL (FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury). A new Canadian league could make way for more clubs to compete in Canada's premier knock-out competition and give it some much-needed growth.
The current format of the competition includes a first round where the Ottawa Fury play FC Edmonton, in a two-legged affair, to join the three MLS clubs in a semi-final. From there, each matchup includes two legs, until a winner is crowned with the Voyageurs Cup. The competition is often predictable (apart from the Miracle in Montreal ha) and lacks any sort of excitement that fans get from knock-out soccer.
One can look at the competition's American counterpart, the US Open Cup, and see that there is often an upset or two in the earlier part of the tournament, adding excitement for the fans. Of course, comparing the current iteration of the Voyageurs Cup to the US Open Cup is unfair due to the size and scope of the American tournament, but the addition of more professional Canadian teams should get the Voyageurs Cup that much closer to having a true knock-out soccer feel.
Rumoured to include between 6-8 teams, the Canadian Premier League will be an undertaking by investors from the CFL and NHL. There are plans to include Hamilton as a team, though not much else is known about the other teams joining the league. Speculation has been doing the rounds, suggesting that the current Canadian NASL teams will break away and join the Canadian Premier League, but there is nothing concrete to those rumours.
Either way, the addition of a few more teams to the Voyageurs Cup will mean that the competition will be available to more Canadians wanting to see top-level soccer in their own backyards. Moreover, the marketing opportunities for the CPL teams will be greater through play with MLS clubs due to interest and television viewership.
It will also be interesting to see the response when a CPL team eliminates one of the MLS clubs, or potentially wins the tournament altogether. Imagine "Hamilton FC" defeating the Montreal Impact to win the Voyageurs Cup. It would be a great day for soccer in Canada and a story that would be told for years. Subsequently, "Hamilton FC" would then represent the entire nation in the CONCACAF Champion's League. The implications of that would be even greater.
However, even with the addition of 8 teams (assuming Ottawa and Edmonton are two of these), the Voyageurs Cup would need to follow a format that's closer to what exists now. This virtually eliminates the possibility of MLS teams getting eliminated early, but still adds the excitement of being a bigger and more complete tournament.
The growth of the tournament would lead to better things for Canadian soccer, as more players will have the chance to showcase their abilities and get the chance to play against tougher opposition. The competition itself would encompass many Canadian cities and their local teams, hoping to become the champions of the nation and representing Canada on a continental stage.
Match Tournament Format
(Assuming 8 CPL teams including Ottawa & Edmonton)