Professional soccer and hockey have totally different cultures. You could never have seen the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL play the Vancouver Canucks or Montreal Canadiens.
But there is a chance of seeing Scunthorpe meet Manchester United or Oldham Athletic play Liverpool in soccer. Or Pacific FC play MLS teams Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact.
Open national side competitions including all levels of the pro game are a common feature in soccer, from the FA Cup in England to the Copa del Rey in Spain.
Canada’s version for the Voyageurs Cup, announced Thursday, will include the nation’s three MLS teams, Whitecaps, Impact and Toronto FC, and the seven charter members of the pro Canadian Premier League, including Island-based Pacific FC, which begins its inaugural season in April.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to meet teams you would not normally play,” said Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer, the 25-time capped Danish international.
“Playing an MLS team, for instance, would be a big challenge for our players but an exciting one.”
The five-round, 13-team, 24-match competition will also feature semi-pro teams from League-1 Ontario and the Première ligue du Soccer du Québec along with the Ottawa Fury from the United Soccer League. The USL’s amateur arm Premier Development League, which includes the Victoria Highlanders, will not be included.
These domestic cup competitions are rife with upsets and known for their giant-killing underdogs.
“Throughout Europe, people love seeing the upsets, and these are always tough games for the higher seeds,” said Silberbauer.
Not that he experienced too many upsets in winning the Danish Cup with FC Copenhagen.
“That was a huge thing for me in my career,” said Silberbauer.
The Voyageurs Cup competition, also dubbed the Canadian Championship, runs May 15 to Sept. 25. The champion will earn Canada’s lone berth into the 2020 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League against the domestic pro club champions and runners-up of North America and Central America. The U.S. and Mexico get four berths each and Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama one berth each.
“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,” said Steven Reed, president of Canada Soccer, in a statement.
Each of the rounds will be two-game sets, home and away, with the winner being determined by aggregate score over the two contests. The defending Voyageurs Cup champion is Toronto FC.
Three Voyageurs Cup champions have reached the quarter-finals or better in the CONCACAF Champions League since 2008. Toronto FC was a semifinalist in 2011-12 and grand finalist in 2018, losing the final to Guadalajara as Mexican clubs have won the title every year since 2006. The Whitecaps were semifinalists in 2016-17.
Pacific FC’s opponent and game dates for the first round are to be announced.
The club will begin play in the CPL in April in a revamped 6,000-seat Westhills Stadium in Langford.