‘Ticket to the dance’: Clanachan, Montopoli highlight growth in revamped Canadian Championship

The Canadian Championship’s new format kicks into gear in 2019, and for CPL Commissioner David Clanachan, the tournament’s expansion heralds yet another unprecedented development in the world of soccer.

For, as Clanachan pointed out in the Edmonton Journal, “What nation has more than doubled the size of their competition (overnight)?”

Indeed, the new Canadian Championship sees 13 teams in total compete for the Voyageurs Cup – and the coveted CONCACAF Champions League berth it affords the victory.

The competition is being dubbed the “Battle of the North” and features teams from Major League Soccer, the USL Championship, PLSQ and League1 Ontario.

And, of course, seven new clubs from the CPL.

“I look at this Canadian Championship as another great opportunity for our players to excel and showcase their abilities at the club level,” CPL commissioner David Clanachan said, as quoted by The Edmonton Journal’s Derek Van Diest. “In this format, winning provides, what I call, a ticket to the dance, which is the biggest club competition in the world.

He added: “As we go forward, we’re going to keep adding teams to this and this thing is going to keep getting bigger and bigger.”

Related: Valour’s Gale, FCE’s Paulus excited for ‘giant-killing’ opportunities in 2019 Canadian Championship

Of course, with any big change comes big decisions, and in the case of the 2019 format, those changes came in the form of a new format, which sees some CPL teams seeded into the tournament at earlier rounds than others.

While the conversation around the format will change as the CPL continues to expand – Clanachan has previously noted his intent to add more teams by 2020 – the underlying theme of competition from the highest levels down to the provincial semi-professional ranks makes this iteration of the Canadian Championship more well-rounded than ever.

It’s why Canada Soccer General Secretary Peter Montopoli hopes fans can enjoy the tournament for what it is in 2019, with an eye on further growth in the years to follow.

“The draw was difficult this year because we didn’t have much from a seeding point of view,” Montopoli said, as quoted by the Edmonton Journal. “I think we did everything we could do to be fair to everybody and I think it gives everybody a fair opportunity to progress in the competition.”

He added: “I think you’re going to see it grow. Much like competitions that are held across all the various FIFA-member competition countries, it gives everybody an opportunity across our country to cheer for someone in their own market place. It gives more opportunities for everyone to be engaged and it’s a positive for everyone.”