Canada Soccer announced this morning how the 2019 Canadian Championship will unfold, with Canadian Premier League teams welcomed into the tournament for the very first time. It’s a pretty weird schedule, with the competition now expanding to include 13 teams.
It’ll now have five total rounds, with certain teams getting byes to all except the final. The first qualifying round will feature PLSQ champions AS Blainville, League1 Ontario champions Vaughan Azzurri, and four CanPL teams — Cavalry FC, HFX Wanderers FC, Pacific FC, and York9 FC.
Three winners from that round will advance to play FC Edmonton, Forge FC, and Valour FC, all of whom received byes to the second round (Edmonton because they’ve played in the tournament before, and Forge and Valour because they were the first two CanPL clubs granted membership by Canada Soccer).
Two MLS teams and USL side Ottawa Fury enter in the third round to play the three winners from the previous round. Toronto FC finally enter in the semi-finals (as the defending champion), where they’ll play one of the winning teams from the previous round, which includes the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps.
All ties are aggregate two-legged ties, with away goals in effect. This year, matchups that are tied after 180 minutes will go straight to penalties rather than extra time. It’s unclear how exactly the rounds will be seeded, so it’s hard to gauge right now who TFC are likely to play in their semi-final tie.
It’s certainly a confusing format, but it could well be tweaked in coming years as CanPL teams get their inaugural seasons under their belts.
Of note is the length of the new-look tournament. It begins on May 15, probably not much more than a month after CanPL teams kick off their season, and it stretches all the way to a championship tie on September 18 and 25. TFC won’t even play a game in the competition until August 7.
Are you a fan of the new format? Do you feel it’s fair to CanPL teams? What would you change, if anything?