A Guelph win on Tuesday is the next step in developing Canadian soccer identity

VANCOUVER, BC – No year in Canadian men’s soccer has been more important than 2022, and with the Canadian championship kicking off on Tuesday night, it stands to become even more historic. 

In North America, many took soccer as a European or British pastime, and only recently has it broken into the common sporting following. However, until the introduction of MLS, and in Canada, the CPL, supporters chose clubs overseas. 

There’s a constant comparison to the domestic game for those who pick a UEFA-baed club like Chelsea or a Real Madrid. Maybe it’s the inferiority of the level, the minimal impact on the global stage, or the lack of secondary competitions. Still, many opt to watch a UEFA team on television rather than a Canadian team from a stand. 

As the 2022 Canadian Championship kicks off, Canada takes another step closer to the European and English game with a more robust and upset-filled domestic cup. For generations of Canadians, these games offer another aspect and play a part in developing an authentic Canadian footballing culture. 

Pacific FC def. Whitecaps in August, 2021 (Ben Steiner)

Last year saw Pacific FC take down the Vancouver Whitecaps in the inaugural Ferryside Derby on Vancouver Island, which was a significant step in the Voyageurs Cup, but a semi-pro team beating a CPL side holds much more weight.

While 2022 did not see much reformat in the tournament’s structure, it still holds significance with a semi-pro side hosting a match for the first time and a draw deciding the first-round matchups.  Every year, the competition creeps closer to what many may call “a real FA Cup.”

A year ago, Guelph United had never kicked a ball in League 1 Ontario. On Tuesday night, they are Canada’s best-ever chance to see a semi-pro team take down a professional team in a cup competition on Tuesday night. Hosting a Joao Morelli-less HFX Wanderers, the League 1 Ontario Champions of last season have the potential to pull off the Cupset. 

While Guelph features several former CPL players and draft picks such as Jace Kotsopoulos, Tomasz Skublak,  Alexander Zis and Reggie Laryea, and Halifax features a former Guelph player in Colin Gander, the game holds tremendous value not only to the two clubs and this year’s competition but the legitimization of Candian soccer culture. 

Alexander Zis (Guelph United)

Guelph presents a better shot than the AS Blainvile and the Oakville Blue Devils of years past and s are more significant threats than PLSQ Champions, Mont-Royal Outremont, who take on another CPL side in a visit to Forge FC. 

“I have to remind them we’re the big underdogs, and we know that, but having people like Tommy Skublak, who’s not only played for Halifax but used to play for me in university,” Guelph United head coach Keith Mason said to the Canadian Premier League. “The big question now is we have to have them all on top of their game tomorrow and hope Halifax are a little bit off.”

Making it even more significant, a Guelph win would allow them to host the Canadian behemoth Toronto FC,  a seemingly untouchable side in Canadian professional soccer greatness. 

The Voyageurs Cup has seen its share of drama throughout its history. Still, if Guelph manages to take down a short-handed HFX Wanderers team on Tuesday night, it will be Canada’s next step into becoming a global footballing nation. 

In March, Canada clinched a spot at the men’s World Cup, and for the first time, they’re going with global superstars. Now, a Guelph United win could propel the game to unparalleled levels in Canada, as 2022 continues to be a watershed year in Canadian men’s soccer. 

Where could it go?

Although not in this year’s tournament,  you only have to look to another League 1 Ontario club to see the future potential of the culture north of the 49th parallel. Electric City FC of Peterborough may not compete this season, but with over 1,500 fans at their home opening match in Canada’s pseudo-second/third tier, there’s a clear foundation to build on for the future Voyageurs Cup tournaments. 

Electric City FC’s home opener (Martin Bazyl)

Additionally, the introduction of League 1 BC will likely mean that another semipro team makes its way into the tournament, but that won’t happen until at least 2023. Still, it would be another significant step into Canada’s development as a footballing nation. 

Other potential upsets in 2022:

Edmonton def. Cavalry

While both teams are from the CPL, Edmonton has never beaten Calgary in Voyageurs Cup or league play, meaning an Eddies win would qualify as an upset. 

Valour def. Vancouver

The Vancouver Whitecaps have had terrible luck in the Voyageurs Cup throughout their history, only winning one tournament in 2015. While Valour is among the CPL sides never to have won the trophy, they have upset potential, looking to join Cavalry and Pacific as CPL teams to defeat the MLS’s Whitecaps. Vancouver has been in poor form, and Valour is slightly better in the CPL, making this Wednesday night clash primed for an upset.

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