Prior to 2008, Canada did not have a club championship for professional teams and for some years prior to 2008 the Canadian Soccer League (prior to 2006 the Canadian Professional Soccer League, CPSL) organized the Open Canada Cup competition which was sponsored in part by the federal government.
During that time the Voyageurs, a Canadian supporters group, awarded a trophy to Canadian teams taking part in the U.S.-based USL Division 1, so it was not until 2007 that the Canadian Soccer Association decided to organize a competition that would decide Canada’s best team.
Various formats were considered, including a competition to include Canada’s MLS entries with the CSL champion and the Canadian national amateur champions. The big teams would enter late, just like in other countries, but this was scrapped in favour of a competition that would bring together only Canada’s premier professional clubs. Today this is known as the Amway Canadian Championship.
Amway is an American company and in 2016 there will be five teams taking part in the Canadian championship: MLS teams Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps, together with FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury FC of the North American Soccer League. Both leagues are based in the United States.
‘Hate the Canadian championship’, says soccer coach and former referee Dave Kenny, a Canadian who spent three years in England as a boy to love the FA Cup over there.
Kenny probably doesn’t really hate the Amway Canadian Championship, although he does explain in an interesting article published in a 2015 issue of Inside Soccer Magazine that interest from a fan’s perspective is poor and the attendances generally low. ‘I made the mistake of paying for a ticket – only once’, he says in the story. He considers the games just an excuse to find a team to enter the CONCACAF Champions League.
By contrast, Kenny describes in glowing terms of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup – the oldest competition in US soccer which allow amateur and professional teams to compete together and against one another – allowing an amateur team to play against the country’s best – similar to the FA Cup in England which, as he points out, are played in front of sell-out crowds.
As a 19 year-old player in Richmond Hill, Kenny’s memory goes back to hosting a match against the European U- 18 champions and the town came together to treat the game as a major community event with the largest crowd to ever see a soccer game in Richmond Hill.
It’s all about the excitement of playing against a glamour team, creating almost an aura, with the possibility of victory for the underdog that attracts. The CSA would be wise to re-visit the first concept which included CSL and top amateur teams taking part in what could become an exciting major annual event in Canadian soccer.
Milton SC vs Toronto FC ….. why not ?