CCL Qualifications Must Reward Canadian Teams

Vancouver’s qualification to the MLS playoffs highlights the unfairness in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, November 08, 2012

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

Canada finally got a playoff team. Hurray Vancouver! This success will hopefully translate into continued growth of Canadian soccer, but my skepticism toward the Whitecaps and my prediction of their loss ended up true.

The growth of both US and Canadian soccer has been helped by the CONCACAF Champions League, as the players have faced difficult opposition and the increased number of games has given young players more opportunities to play, among other reasons. These opportunities for growth are a great reward for performing well in MLS and it is good to see MLS teams taking the tournament seriously.

But it hasn’t been too beneficial for Canadian teams because had the Whitecaps made it to the MLS Cup, they would not have gotten this reward.

As it stands right now, Canada has one spot in the CCL determined by the Voyageurs Cup for the Canadian Championship, while the US has four – one team from US Open Cup and three teams from MLS (MLS Cup finalists and Supporters’ Shield winner). Accordingly, even if Vancouver had moved past the Galaxy and won the MLS Cup, the sole Canadian participant in the CCL will be Toronto FC as it won the Voyageurs Cup.

While it might be beating a dead horse, I have to repeat that while the Voyageurs Cup is solely Canadian and the US Open Cup is only American, MLS is for both American and Canadian clubs. Therefore, I think the Voyageurs Cup and the US Open Cup should be equated and the three MLS spots should be up for grabs.

The Canadian Soccer Association recognizes MLS as its Division 1 league and, as such, the CCL entries from the league shouldn’t be reserved for solely American teams. If the Whitecaps moved past Los Angeles and reached to the MLS Cup Final, why shouldn’t they be rewarded equally for that in the CONCACAF Champions League?

No matter if the club is American or Canadian, the teams that win the Supporters’ Shield or make it to the MLS Cup should be rewarded with the participation in the CCL. This is only fair and it will help recognize Canada as an even partner, rather than a sidecar passenger in MLS.

This might be an issue that needs to be resolved with US Soccer and CONCACAF, more so than MLS. But if MLS is sincere about wanting to grow the Canadian game, the league should start lobbying for the change suggested here. There should be even rewards for equal performances.

This issue has become even more urgent, and would have been more so had Vancouver sneaked its way past Los Angeles.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.