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Is it time to expanded the Canadian Championship to lower divisions?

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There's an excellent little debate being waged on the Vancouver Southsiders' forum regarding whether the Canadian Championship should be expanded to include clubs in the lower divisions.

What do you think? It is time to let PDL, and possibly even CSL/PCSL clubs in? Should the Canadian Championship become an open cup, like the English FA Cup and the US Open Cup?

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How is Kitchener/Abbotsford/Moncton/Small Town Canada FC going to afford flying all of their players for away games to Nicaruaga/Puerto Rico/Salt Lake City on the off chance that they actually win the Voyageurs Cup?

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In 2012 there will be four fully professional teams in Canada: Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. That means that a semi-professional or amateur team could win the Voyageurs Cup with as few as three upsets over first- or second-ranked competition. That's a lot but it's far from impossible. In England, there's so much material at the top of the pyramid that it would take six or seven rounds of giant-slaying (with a far greater disparity in quality of play) for a true, non-League minnow to get their hands on the FA Cup.

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I don't get what the big deal is. Make it a stipulation before hand that they will fulfil their commitment to the CCL if they win if they want to enter. Do these other leagues even want to participate? If they want to send a representative, they need to show they can support at least a double legged qualifying tie.

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In 2012 there will be four fully professional teams in Canada: Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. That means that a semi-professional or amateur team could win the Voyageurs Cup with as few as three upsets over first- or second-ranked competition. That's a lot but it's far from impossible.

Well it's proving to be impossible for one professional club.... 0/11?

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I don't see the problem with the teams entering, so long as they are committed to fulfilling obligations to compete. It's not like CONCACAF don't have a mechanism for dealing with no-shows (see Belize Defence Force and Real Estelí). I also think the local raising of funds for continental participation would be reasonably accomplished for this sort of thing; it would be a really good selling point for the club in general with local businesses and fans.

If the argument is "if the Milltown FC don't meet CONCACAF participation requirements, the spot will be reassigned out of Canada and we won't have a spot" then the answer is "well, Toronto/Vancouver/Edmonton/Montreal should have won it in the first place."

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So if we went to the PDL level:

Victoria Highlanders

VWFC

Abbotsford Marriners

FC Edmonton

ASA Winnipeg

Thunder Bay

Forest City London

Ottawa Fury

Toronto FC

Hamilton

Toronto Lynx

Montreal Impact

That's 12 clubs by my count, excluding the Caps residency. Give the top 4 a buy and we get to an 8 team QF. That would be cool. I think we'd need to think about starting the competition in Aug/Sep, and then playing the final in Mar/April to minimize the impact of the MLS teams playing 34 league games -assuming we play home and away ties from the QF, which may not be necessary.

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Definitely not. There will need to be sufficient sponsorship/TV money to cover the costs for the lower level clubs especially. Just not practical.

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While I love to see a Havant & Waterlooville type run by a lower team we are not ready yet. First the quality of the games would drop way too much. Second we have no national D3 setup. We have a bunch of regional D3 leagues. This could be the bait to get them to put aside their petty bickering and do up a national D3 championship. If they can do that ON THEIR OWN then they have proven themselves worthy of inclusion. Until that time I'd have to say no.

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Here's my suggestion if you are going to include lower league clubs.

Right now we're at 4 teams with next year 3 being in MLS and 1 from the NASL. That NASL team (FCE) finished 4th this year and would be the 4 seed next year.

I'd make that 4 seed a play in amongst the lower leagues. Setup a Preliminary tournament promoting Canada soccer with perhaps the 4 seed being the tournament host. Doing it all in one spot saves the transport money these teams likely don't have available.

So you invite 7 clubs to join the host in a 7-10 day tournament showcasing the best of our 2nd tier level soccer. The winner of this tournament earns the 4 seed in the V's Cup and it proceeds as normal.

This creates a relatively cheap event for the teams to attend, a chance for Soccer Canada to promote for a week and a chance for one of those teams to get to play on TV vs the MLS clubs.

Yes/no?

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There's an excellent little debate being waged on the Vancouver Southsiders' forum regarding whether the Canadian Championship should be expanded to include clubs in the lower divisions.

What do you think? It is time to let PDL, and possibly even CSL/PCSL clubs in? Should the Canadian Championship become an open cup, like the English FA Cup and the US Open Cup?

As the creator of that thread on the Southsider site, I think the growth of the Voyaguers Cup is not only possible, but also financially viable.

1 - We Have To Change Anyway, So Do It Right The First Time: With Ottawa entering NASL, there will be expansion anyway (assuming FC Edmonton survives). That being the case, what's the best format? Use this opportunity to create a full third round, with 8 teams. Three rounds would mean 6 games to win the trophy, thus ending perception and criticism that the title is "easy". Don't just have a preliminary home-and-away between Edm and Ott to play the big boys. This competition is an opportunity to grow the fan base of Canadian soccer. Use it prudently. Give 8 cities a reason to care about this competition, rather than just 5.

2 - Change The Format Once Now, Then Leave It Alone, To Create Tradition and Stability: Constant change of format hurts sporting competitions. 3 x MLS and 2 x NASL teams means 3 more berths in the third round. We have PDL teams in Victoria, Abbottsford, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, London, and Hamilton (I'm not including the VWFC Residency). Let them compete for those 3 spots with a fourth round of 6 teams, which can be expanded to a fourth round of up to 16 teams eventually WITHOUT having to re-jig the competition. Not needing to change the format every few years will give the Voyageurs Cup stability, and increased prestige. Tier II and III soccer in North America BADLY NEED stability. A stable, historic championship with stable clubs is more marketable to sponsors and media, and easier for fans to emotionally relate to (and therefore support).

3 - The Cup is Now Financially Viable: FC Edmonton got 5000 fans out - twice their average gate - for their Cup game vs Toronto. We will see crowds that size in Victoria, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton - even Thunder Bay - against MLS teams, because games against higher league opposition are always of interest to fans of teams in smaller cities. The Cup will be financially viable now that there are actually big MLS "fish" that the little teams can draw.

4 - Advertising Value: Drawing an MLS team will give current PDL teams more fan interest and media than they can afford to get in any other way. Canada needs to grow Tier II and III soccer clubs, because it is only by having established clubs that fan interest in the Canadian game (including the national teams) can stop treading water, and start increasing.

5 - Appeal To Core Fanbase: Around the world, national cup competitions feature little teams against big ones, the excitement of a lottery-draw, upsets, etc. The "soccer mum" crowd isn't what pays the bills of pro soccer. That is payed by real fans, who know global soccer culture. Those fans want a proper national cup competition. Giving them one not only gets their business, but gets them even more committed to other aspects of Canadian soccer, like their local PDL team, or the womens' national team, or the mens national team, or the MLS teams.

6 - Media Coverage Tipping Point: I don't know anyone who follows baseball or basketball, yet there are highlights of these sports every night on my television. Why? Because those sports manufacture enough "highlights" for enough months of the year that media can rely upon them to provide content. Part of the reason why some parts of Canadian soccer are poorly covered in the media is that there isn't enough content to report upon. So make some more, in the form of the Voyaguers Cup. Give us three full rounds (with a fourth preliminary round) to follow. Give Canadian sports broadcasters four Canadian soccer games to report on, in one night, by creating a Cup competition which delivers that, at least in the first few rounds.

7 - Give NASL, USL, and PDL Teams a New Revenue Source: We want NASL, USL, and PDL teams to survive. So give them a big pay day in the Cup. It will increase interest and media coverage, which should translate into more fans for their league games. It should help them attract and keep players. It should cause some people who currently only play senior amateur soccer to consider the jump in commitment to the PDL.

8 - Test The Waters For Expansion: We need NASL soccer in Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa. We need USL-Pro level soccer in Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Quebec. We need USL Pro or PDL soccer in Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Windsor, London, Kitchener, and Halifax. We need PDL soccer in Kelowna, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Barrie, St Catharine's, Cambridge, Kingston, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres, Chicoutimi, St John - Moncton, Sydney, and St Johns. Creating a truly national Cup competition will help potential owners take the step to increase the calibre at which existing clubs play in all of these cities. It gives people one more reason to need to own and build a soccer-only facility. We have the people and the players. What stops us is the cost of playing on our huge geography. A Cup helps bridge that gap.

9 - Test The Waters for a New CSL of Tier II soccer: Canada could have a new CSL, either with NASL/USL, or without it, in Vic, Edm, Cgy, Wpg, Lon, Ham, Ott, Que, and Hfx. But it's hard to get 8-10 clubs to the same level at the same time, to form a league. Building the Cup, in conjunction with the NASL and USL, allows us as a country to get several clubs to the same point on their own time.

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How is Kitchener/Abbotsford/Moncton/Small Town Canada FC going to afford flying all of their players for away games to Nicaruaga/Puerto Rico/Salt Lake City on the off chance that they actually win the Voyageurs Cup?

If the Thunder Bay Chill drew an MLS team in the Cup, it would be the event of the year there, and they would get a gate of 2,000 minimum, more likely 5,000. That's the domestic games.

On the off-chance they actually won the Cup, the interest in the city would be the same for the foreign games. Representing Canada in such a competition is something that small-town Canada hasn't done since the days of the Trail Smoke-Eaters etc representing Canada in hockey at the Olympics and World Championship level. Victoria, London, and Halifax would easily get the crowds to the home game needed to cover the costs of this, because those cities don't have pretensions about being "bigger" league than they are. The only current PDL team that might have problems would be the Abbottsford Mariners, IMO. In that case, it's up to the CSA to realise that the cost of growing the sport might mean partially covering the cost of a team to make that travel. But I've seen how smaller communities support national champions, Olympic athletes, etc that come from them, so I don't consider this to be a problem.

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I think this idea right now is great but not yet. I seriously doubt teams from CSL, PCSL and PDL could afford the travel.

The revenue from the home leg of a game against an MLS team would pay for the travel cost of the away leg. The Victoria Highlanders would get an overflow crowd of 5,000 easily at Royal Athletic Park if they got a Cup draw against an MLS team. I would expect similar attendance numbers in London, Halifax, Winnipeg, Hamilton, or Quebec.

If such a team were actually to win the Cup, the support would continue. To smaller cities the idea of being national champion is a much bigger deal than it is in large cities which "expect" such titles. We see it in the way that small towns support "their" Canadian Olympic athletes. The CCL might get lost in Toronto, but if it took place in Thunder Bay, or Victoria, or Halifax, the local team would get big crowds, against both Real Estelli and the Central American unknowns, let alone a US MLS or a Mexican club. The boost to Canadian soccer would be incredible.

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This could be the bait to get them to put aside their petty bickering and do up a national D3 championship.

That's one of the reasons why the Cup should be expanded. I've listed another 8 on my post.

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Here's my suggestion if you are going to include lower league clubs.

Right now we're at 4 teams with next year 3 being in MLS and 1 from the NASL. That NASL team (FCE) finished 4th this year and would be the 4 seed next year.

I'd make that 4 seed a play in amongst the lower leagues. Setup a Preliminary tournament promoting Canada soccer with perhaps the 4 seed being the tournament host. Doing it all in one spot saves the transport money these teams likely don't have available.

So you invite 7 clubs to join the host in a 7-10 day tournament showcasing the best of our 2nd tier level soccer. The winner of this tournament earns the 4 seed in the V's Cup and it proceeds as normal.

This creates a relatively cheap event for the teams to attend, a chance for Soccer Canada to promote for a week and a chance for one of those teams to get to play on TV vs the MLS clubs.

Yes/no?

I'd say no. It doesn't allow for a home leg for each team. The major reason for expanding the Cup would be to increase fan, sponsor, and media interest in the non-MLS clubs. Not having a home game makes this an amateur road trip and tourney, not the growth of a professional competition. There would be no opportunity for the PDL clubs to grow, by having fans come out to a live game. For me a large part of the point of expanding the Cup would be to give these clubs something for both their players and their fans to look forward to, and train towards.

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Definitely not. There will need to be sufficient sponsorship/TV money to cover the costs for the lower level clubs especially. Just not practical.

If the Victoria Highlanders had a home game against another Canadian PDL team, and the winner got a game against an MLS team, the fan interest in that game would translate into enough tickets sold to cover the travel cost of the away leg. I'm certain the same is true for Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, London, and Hamilton. The only place I wouldn't bet on that being true for would be Abbottsford.

I think it goes without saying that a game against an MLS team in any of these cities would give the home team more than enough revenue to cover the cost of the away leg.

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Seems to me the proponents of adding lower level amateur teams to the VCup are expecting the MLS clubs to effectively sponsor the lower level teams. I can't see that happening. MLS and even NASL clubs already have busy schedules with horrendous travel demands, adding a slew more games against amateur teams just won't work.

What might work is modifying the existing amateur club nationals to allow participation of those lower level leagues. I'd pay money to see the top BC 'amateur' men's team whup the CSL entry ;-)

Problem is, where do you draw the line.

Edited by Richard

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If the Victoria Highlanders had a home game against another Canadian PDL team, and the winner got a game against an MLS team, the fan interest in that game would translate into enough tickets sold to cover the travel cost of the away leg. I'm certain the same is true for Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, London, and Hamilton. The only place I wouldn't bet on that being true for would be Abbottsford.

I think it goes without saying that a game against an MLS team in any of these cities would give the home team more than enough revenue to cover the cost of the away leg.

Thats not my issue, my issue is whether or not Victoria can fly to Nicarugua to play Real Esteli on their own dime. Now, I'm also pretty sure Concacaf gives some money as a travel allowance and if thats enough to cover the away trips for the whole tournament then I'm all for these lower level clubs giving it a go.

I will say one thing, adding lower level sides might actually hurt the NCC while its in its infancy and take away from its prestige as well as TV deal. If TFC played Victoria, I'm not sure many people would go to see it in Toronto. Seattle has the right idea with the secondary stadium for early US Open Cup fixtures.

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I will say one thing, adding lower level sides might actually hurt the NCC while its in its infancy and take away from its prestige as well as TV deal. If TFC played Victoria, I'm not sure many people would go to see it in Toronto.

I agree. And I have made this argument many times. Presentation is key, that's one of the reasons why the Toronto lynx would draw 3 thousand spectators for their games at centennial and TFC draws over 20k at a SSS. Having to play games and show games from a field whereby the spectators are in lawn chairs along the sidelines only hurts the presentation and prestige of the event. People in Canada will View and pay only for events that are deemed professional but there little appetite for anything amateur.

And besides, its moot point. Because if anyone would bother to read the stadium requirements from concacaf, they would realize that it's not possible for the vast majority of other clubs to meet this requirement.

Edited by Free kick

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If the Victoria Highlanders had a home game against another Canadian PDL team, and the winner got a game against an MLS team, the fan interest in that game would translate into enough tickets sold to cover the travel cost of the away leg. I'm certain the same is true for Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, London, and Hamilton. The only place I wouldn't bet on that being true for would be Abbottsford.

I think it goes without saying that a game against an MLS team in any of these cities would give the home team more than enough revenue to cover the cost of the away leg.

Why? I don't know how you can be certain about this at all.

It may apply to Victoria, but otherwise I really think it does not go without saying. This is an assumption taken from the European/South American experience that does not translate to Canadian soccer at this time.

The cache of an NASL or MLS team is very limited outside of the existing soccer community. Edm, Mtl, Tor, Vanc may be a top draw to us, but to most fans outside their home cities they certainly are not.

Heck, some of these teams have very limited appeal in their own community. Do you know what the attendance was for the last Hamilton home game? 125.

All of a sudden that's going to go to 4000 for a game against Toronto, let alone Edmonton? Most of these PDL teams don't have the staff or the infrastructure to host these games. They'd have to weather the financial risks if the game doesn't draw, let alone the financial risks of actual success (e.g. progressing.)

I really think Free Kick and Kodiak are right on this.

Edited by Marc

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