On Tuesday Canada Soccer announced the draw for the 2019 Canadian Championship, which will see Cavalry FC and the six other Canadian Premier League clubs competing in the national cup competition for the first time.
The winner of the competition will earn a spot in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League first round. The Canadian Premier League (CPL) schedule and format is yet to be announced, but the new professional soccer league is set to begin April 27.
Cavalry FC will play Pacific FC in the 2019 Canadian championship’s first round with the first leg taking place in Calgary May 15. The return leg will be played on Vancouver Island a week later.
And Cavalry FC head coach is ready to battle for the national championship, which also includes Canada’s three Major League Soccer clubs.
“We’re just happy to be part of the cup competition,” said Tommy Wheeldon Jr., Cavalry FC Head Coach and General Manager. “This is Canada’s cup. It’s what the fans want to see. The David and Goliath stories are there, from League1, to the PLSQ, to the CPL, to the MLS sides. It’s a great competition to be a part of.”
The knock out competition’s draw sees Cavalry FC enter at the first stage with fellow CPL clubs Pacific FC, York9 FC and HFX Wanderers FC along with 2018 League1 Ontario Champions Vaughan Azzurri and 2018 Première Ligue de soccer du Québec champions AS Blainville.
The three first round winners advance to play the three remaining CPL teams, Forge FC, FC Edmonton and Valour FC in the second round. Those three winners then go on to the third round where Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Ottawa Fury await. Following that, 2018 Canadian Championship winners Toronto FC come in at the semifinal stage. The final’s two legs will take place on Sept. 18 and 25.
Canada Soccer, the operator of the Canadian Championship, has angered some Canadian soccer fans who believe the 2019 championship’s format and draw are unnecessarily skewed against some clubs.
But Cavalry FC’s head coach says he isn’t too bothered about the tournament’s format. He’s simply looking forward to competing.
“Yeah, we have the hard road ahead,” said Wheeldon. “We face a CPL side right off the bat, another CPL side if we win, then we meet the MLS side if we win that, which I believe is Vancouver.
“But we’re prepared to do the hard yards. We want to do our talking on the pitch. We’ve been given the opportunity and we’re more than happy to take that and we’re relishing for when May 15 comes around.”
Only three of seven CPL teams eligible for 2019 Concacaf League
On Monday Concacaf announced an expansion of the 2019 Concacaf League, the preliminary tournament for the 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. From 2019 forward, the Concacaf League will include a spot for a CPL team.
But on Tuesday Canada Soccer announced that only Edmonton, Forge FC, and Valour FC will be eligible for the 2019 Concacaf League qualification. Home and away matches in the Canadian Premier League regular season between the three clubs will determine who advances to the Concacaf League.
“Consistent with seeding for the Canadian Championship based on membership, these three inaugural teams will be provided with a unique opportunity for this season to earn the Canada 2 spot in Scotiabank Concacaf League,” said Canada Soccer via the official release.
Cavalry FC, York9 FC, Pacific FC and HFX Wanderers FC will not have the opportunity to compete for this year’s berth.
The Canada Soccer release wasn’t clear but it is assumed only the home and away matches in the first two to three months of the CPL season will be used to determine the spot, as the Concacaf League begins in July. This is only three months after the start of the CPL which will run from April to October. This could be a factor as to why the CPL schedule has yet to be formally announced.
Following the 2019 CPL season, the CPL champion will earn the Concacaf League berth going forward.
Cavalry FC’s head coach shrugged off any overt disappointment upon hearing the Canada Soccer statement and says he and his team will concentrate on earning the 2020 Concacaf League spot via the 2019 CPL season.
“In terms of the Concacaf League extra spot this year, I believe it’s simply a bonus spot for some of the CPL sides to be in,” said Wheeldon. “In all fairness, it’s a Canada Soccer decision. We have to respect it. They’ve got their reasons behind it.
“We’ll just focus on getting there the good old fashioned way by trying to win the 2019 (CPL) championship and then we’ll go into it as the CPL champions. That’s the carrot that’s being dangled for us. We’re looking forward to proving our worth on the pitch.”