Bedakian: Best matchups possible in the Canadian Championship

The 2019 Canadian Championship is here, with 13 clubs from five different leagues battling it out for the Voyageurs Cup, the top prize in Canadian soccer – and the CONCACAF Champions League berth that comes with it.

This season, the inclusion of seven new Canadian Premier League clubs from coast-to-coast opens the door for many more regional and cross-country matchups, and while the road to the final won’t be easy, there is still plenty of opportunity for drama and intrigue along the way.

Here are the four juiciest prospective matchups in the 2019 Canadian Championship:

Pacific FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Qualifying Round 3

The most-anticipated west-coast duel of the entire tournament comes in the third round of action as Pacific FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps meet in the mid-point of the affair. To get here, Pacific FC will need to triumph over Cavalry FC, then overcome Forge FC in stage two, both well within the reason of possibility for Michael Silberbauer’s side.

There is no end to the familiarity on offer from both parties, as many of Pacific FC’s roster have cut their teeth in the Whitecaps’ academy programs, but for Vancouver-area players like Marcus Haber, the opportunity to test themselves against the region’s giant is certainly one worth relishing.

So, time to ready the ferry trips to and from Vancouver Island on July 10 and July 24?

Pacific FC players take part in warmups ahead of a match at Westhills Stadium. (Pacific FC)
Pacific FC players take part in warmups ahead of a match at Westhills Stadium. (Pacific FC)

Valour FC vs. Toronto FC – Semi-Final Round

A packed house at BMO Field can be an intimidating sight for many an away traveller, but with the might of Manitoba behind them, Valour FC could play host to one of the bigger clashes in the tournament at Investors Group Field.

First, Rob Gale’s side would need to overcome one of Vaughan Azzurri (L1O) or the HFX Wanderers in round two, before taking on USL outfit Ottawa Fury in the third qualifying stage, but should the Winnipeg-based outfit triumph on both fronts, a trip to Toronto awaits in the Semi-Final Round.

Packed stadiums aside, this would be a tilt that Gale, in particular, would relish – he’s made no secret of his intent to quash the “centre of the universe” mindset that Torontonians display. His pre- and post-game pressers alone make this matchup well worth watching.

Cavalry FC vs. FC Edmonton – Semi-Final Round

We’ve had many a 401 Derby clash in the Canadian Championship, and, yes, a meeting between TFC and the Impact in the final would be intriguing, as always, but there exists the possibility of another regional rivalry in the late stages of the 2019 Canadian Championship

We’re talking, of course, about the Al Classico, the Alberta rivalry that pits Cavalry FC and FC Edmonton against one another, with the earliest possible bout occurring in the semis of this year’s “Battle of the North.”

It won’t come easily for either team, though: Cavalry would need to dispatch each of Pacific, Forge and the Whitecaps, while Edmonton would need to topple either York9 or Blainville, as well as the Impact, in order to set this fierce rivalry up in the semi-finals.

But you can bet both Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Jeff Paulus have set those exact goals for Cavalry and Edmonton respectively. It’s not hard to see why, either.

Cavalry FC supporters FC during a match at Spruce Meadows. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports for CPL)
Cavalry FC supporters FC during a match at Spruce Meadows. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports for CPL)

Toronto FC vs. York9 FC – Final

The most intriguing finale to the 2019 Canadian Championship would see Toronto FC take on their new rivals to the north in York9 FC, spearheaded by the club’s former captain and defensive stalwart Jimmy Brennan.

This derby – yes, a real Toronto derby – final would be more than a match, as York Region’s nine municipalities set out to distinguish themselves in identity from “the 6ix” to the south. The identity of the region is, itself, the founding pillar of York9, and the opportunity to truly stand on its own two feet with victory over Toronto FC in this grandest stage is likely on the mind of every single player, coach and staff member at the green-clad club.

Toronto FC, conversely, will look to firmly re-establish its foothold on the Greater Toronto Area, adding another deeply significant layer to a final that would likely start off respectfully enough … though, with so many connections and complex historical factors, would anyone be surprised if this particular matchup devolved into a red-card laden affair?

And, we can’t forget the inevitable talk of MLS vs. CPL; there’s no better measure than this.