The Canadian Soccer Championship is down to two teams: Toronto and Montreal. While the winner will potentially get a chance to represent Canada at the CONCACAF Champions League, there are higher aspirations for Canada as a soccer country at the moment.
With the Canadian Premier League set to kickoff in August 2018 and a 2026 World Cup bid hanging in the balance, whoever becomes Canada’s representative next year should be meaningless anyway.
What has taken place in Canada over the last five years has been entertaining and amazing to watch. This was kickstarted by the emergence of the three Canadian MLS teams that added roughly two dozen Canadian soccer players across the three teams. More importantly, Toronto FC isn’t just “another team”, they actually hold the best record in the MLS in the process, avoiding defeat in 13 of their last 14 matches.
On the national team’s side of things, the attitude of Canadians towards their team has improved as the team is preparing for the 2017 Gold Cup. Personally, I really can’t remember a time this team had so much promise heading into the postseason.
But back to the Canadian Premier League. A lot of people are going to be ignorant and say that joining the CPL won’t work. That it’s a terrible league and they would lose 10-0 to the likes of Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
While that may be true, that is not the right way to approach a soccer league. UEFA has 55 countries and 54 of them have soccer leagues. Yet, there is national pride on the line when the bottom leagues have success. For instance in Albania, Skënderbeu Korçë attempted to become the first Albanian team to ever reach to the Champions League Group Stage. You didn’t hear anyone say during their run that their national league was terrible because it isn’t “the best league”.
The Albanian League has improved their national team over the years and last year made a surprise appearance at the Euros in France. This is why it is not about having the best league. There’s no such thing as the best league in soccer. English Premier League is the best league top-to-bottom, but we all know the two best teams reside in Spain.
That’s the best thing about soccer. The passion is unprecedented and the thought of changing a team’s culture for the good is always there. A chance to win against all odds and in the relegation leagues and a chance to stay up when no one thought your team could.
That’s why it shouldn’t matter. The MLS receives a bad reputation for not being as strong of a league as the European League, but it has helped the U.S. Men’s National team. Before the MLS, just qualifying for the World Cup was an accomplishment. Now, not getting to the quarterfinals is disappointing. What changed? A successful World Cup bid in 1994 and the inception of the MLS a few years later. Now, almost a quarter century later, Canada seems like it’s on a similar path.