Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship up to 13 clubs as CPL kicks off

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - SPORTS - Neil David­son

TORONTO — The Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship will ex­pand to 13 teams in 2019 with the ad­di­tion of seven Cana­dian Premier League clubs.

They join Toronto FC, Mon­treal Im­pact and Van­cou­ver White­caps from Ma­jor League Soc­cer, Ot­tawa Fury FC from the United Soc­cer League and a team from both League 1 On­tario and the Pre­miere Ligue du Soc­cer de Que­bec ( PLSQ).

As de­fend­ing cham­pion, Toronto will en­ter the five- round com­pe­ti­tion in the semi­fi­nals, one round after Van­cou­ver, Mon­treal and Ot­tawa join in.

All three MLS teams joined in the semi­fi­nal round in 2018, when the field was just six teams.

Four of the CPL teams will en­ter the com­pe­ti­tion at the first hur­dle while the re­main­ing three will come in at the sec­ond. A Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion spokesman said that was done be­cause there needed to be a split be­tween the first two rounds with 13 teams com­pet­ing.

“With­out a com­pe­ti­tion re­sult to pro­vide seed­ing, the time­lines un­der which the clubs be­came pro­fes­sional clubs in mem­ber­ship of Canada Soc­cer pro­vided a fair ba­sis for place­ment,” the spokesman said.

The five- round, 24- match com­pe­ti­tion kicks off May 15 with the two- legged fi­nal set for Sept. 18 and 25. The tour­na­ment win­ner hoists the Voyageurs Cup and will rep­re­sent Canada in the 2020 Sco­tia­bank Cham­pi­ons League.

“The Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship has evolved into a true do­mes­tic cup com­pe­ti­tion with mul­ti­ple lev­els of en­trants all bat­tling to se­cure a cov­eted Sco­tia­bank CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons League spot,” Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Steven Reed said in a state­ment.

The CPL is sched­uled to kick off its in­au­gu­ral sea­son in April.

“Our vi­sion is to cre­ate a solid foun­da­tion that will con­tinue and grow the game and help Cana­di­ans be a force on the world stage. The Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship presents an­other in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity for our play­ers to ex­cel and show­case their abil­i­ties at the club level,” CPL com­mis­sioner David Clanachan said in a state­ment.

Asked if the new league had any is­sue with the two- tiered en­try in 2019, a CPL spokesman said “sched­ule” ques­tions should be di­rected to the Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion.

Each of the 2019 Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship rounds will be con­tested in a home- and- away for­mat.

The first qual­i­fy­ing round, to be played May 15 and 22, will fea­ture six teams: PLSQ’s AS Blainville and League 1 On­tario’s Vaughan Az­zurri plus the CPL’s Pa­cific FC ( Vic­to­ria), Cav­alry FC ( Cal­gary), York 9 FC ( north Toronto) and HFX Wan­der­ers FC ( Hal­i­fax).

The four CPL teams that start in the first round got their Canada Soc­cer mem­ber­ship in 2018. Blainville, part of last year’s field, and Vaughan can­not not be drawn to­gether in the qual­i­fy­ing round.

The sec­ond round, to be played June 5 and 12, fea­tures the firstround win­ners and FC Ed­mon­ton, Forge FC ( Hamil­ton), and Valour FC ( Win­nipeg).

FC Ed­mon­ton gets a bye to the sec­ond round as a team re­turn­ing to the Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship as a CPL mem­ber. Forge FC and Valour FC en­ter in the sec­ond round by virtue of ac­quir­ing their Canada Soc­cer pro­fes­sional club sta­tus in 2017.

The Mon­treal Im­pact, Van­cou­ver White­caps and Ot­tawa Fury FC will come into the com­pe­ti­tion in the third round, sched­uled for July 10 and 24, fac­ing the three sec­on­dround win­ners.

The three third- round win­ners will join Toronto in the semi­fi­nals, Aug. 7 and 14.

Each of the two- legged rounds will be de­ter­mined by ag­gre­gate score over the two legs. In the event of a tie, away goals will be used to de­ter­mine the win­ner. In the event that does not de­cide the out­come, the game will go straight to penalty kicks.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS files

Toronto FC’s Jay Chap­man, left, bat­tles for the ball with Ot­tawa Fury FC’s Stee­van Dos San­tos dur­ing Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship soc­cer ac­tion last July.

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