With the introduction of the Canadian Premier League, which is scheduled to kick off in April, Canada Soccer made changes to the Canadian Championship.
“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,” Canada Soccer President Steven Reed said in a statement released Thursday. “We are proud to welcome seven teams as first-time entrants from League1 Ontario and the Canadian Premier League that join six returning teams in our 2019 Battle of the North.”
Known as the Voyageurs Cup, the winner will earn Canada’s sole spot in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. The Voyageurs Cup has been awarded to the Canadian Championship winner since 2008. Created by the Voyageurs Canadian Supporters group, the trophy represents Canadian fans’ commitment to the game in their country.
Last season, the trophy was contested by the three Canadian Major League Soccer clubs Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, as well as the USL side Ottawa Fury and provincial champions from Ontario and Quebec.
The introduction of a coast-to-coast Canadian Premier League, which will launch with seven clubs, made changes necessary. Next season, the three MLS clubs will be joined once again by the USL franchise Ottawa Fury, the provincial champions from Quebec and Ontario and the seven CPL teams.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) January 10, 2019
Each of the rounds will be contested in a home-and-away format with the winner determined by the aggregate score over the two legs. In the event of a tie, away goals will be used to determine the winner. New for 2019, there will be no extra time after a tie. Instead, kicks from the penalty mark will be used at the end of the second leg to determine the winner.
The tournament begins with the first qualifying round — featuring six teams drawn to determine the matchups — May 15 and 22.
AS Blainville, winner of the semi-professional Première Ligue de soccer du Québec, makes its return to competition, joined by the following first-time participants: League1 Ontario champion Vaughan Azzurri and CPL clubs Pacific FC, Cavalry FC, York9 FC and HFX Wanderers FC.
The second qualifying round is slated for June 5 and 12, featuring the three winners of the first round matched up against CPL clubs FC Edmonton, Forge FC and Valour FC.
FC Edmonton returns to the Canadian Championship as a member of the Canadian Premier League and was granted a bye round based on its historical North American Soccer League and United Soccer League ties.
Canada Soccer also gave first-round byes to newly-founded Forge FC and Valour FC. The rationale behind the decision was that those two CPL clubs were founded in 2017, one year ahead of the other four newly-established CPL teams, which were all created in 2018.
The competition will then continue with a third qualifying round on July 10 and 24. The round will feature the three winners of the second round against the USL’s Ottawa Fury and MLS sides the Montréal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Finally, the semifinal Round (Aug. 7 and 14) will feature the third-round winners and MLS’ Toronto FC, which received qualifying byes as the defending Canadian Championship winner. The two semifinal winners will then advance to the final round, to be contested in a home-and-away series Sept. 18 and 25.
The winner will then qualify for the Concacaf Champions League, where Canadian clubs have done well since the introduction of the Voyageurs Cup. Since 2008, three Canadian winners have reached the quarterfinal stage or further in Concacaf Champions League: Toronto FC (semifinals in 2011-12 and the final in 2018); Montreal (quarterfinals in 2008-09 and final in 2014-15); and Vancouver Whitecaps FC (semifinals in 2016-17).