Which CPL team has the best chance to win the 2022 Canadian Championship?
VANCOUVER – Things are about to get interesting in the Canadian Championship.
Having reached the quarter-final stage of that competition, that's an important landmark, as it's where all of the remaining participants enter the bracket, creating a chaotic 8-team sprint towards silverware.
So while an entertaining preliminary round was a good taste of the drama that this competition can offer, with the five games on tap all delivering in their own way, things are about to get even more fun now in the quarter-finals. With no shortage of storylines, and some even tastier matchups coming together, there's everything that you'd want from a cup competition.
Speaking of one of those storylines, however, arguably the biggest of them all? The race for the first-ever Canadian Premier League team to win the Canadian Championship, something that is yet to happen in the prior three years the league has been in existence.
Because of that, it's exciting to see five CPL teams still standing at this stage, giving the league a good chance to change that. Of course, Forge could soon render this discussion moot, as they're taking on Toronto FC in the long-awaited 2020 Canadian Championship final on June 3th, but given the circumstances in which that game came about, it's hard to compare that to what a CPL team winning this elongated version of the tournament would mean.
Therefore, while Forge winning that game would be sweet, the first CPL team to make it through the bracket to win will be that much sweeter, making for a memorable moment for whomever that ends up being.
So as those five CPL teams get set to undergo their respective quarter-finals, including Forge, here's a look at their respective chances at becoming that team in this edition, ranked from lowest to highest.
5. Forge FC
Ironically, it feels fitting that the team with the best chance to become the first team to lift the Canadian Championship has the toughest odds of winning this year's tournament, as Forge has been dealt a very tough hand with their 2022 draw.
Having taken care of business against PLSQ side CSMR Outremont at home last round, the path towards the title has just gotten really difficult for Forge, as they must now take on defending champions, and early favourites, CF Montreal, away.
So while Forge will fancy their chances against Montreal, especially considering that they only narrowly lost to them via a penalty shootout in the semi-finals of last year's tournament, this Montreal team has gotten a lot better, and Forge is struggling with injuries right now.
Not only that, if Forge are to get through, their path to the final is extremely difficult, as they'd have to then play away in the semi-finals, either to Toronto FC or Halifax Wanderers. And if they won that, they'd also play the final away, to either Pacific FC, York United, Cavalry FC or the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Therefore, while you can't ever count this Forge team out, the task is a tough one, one that might prove to be just a bit too much for them to handle.
Forge FC expands seating availability at @TimHortonsField for the 2020 #CanChamp Final vs. @TorontoFC due to high demand.— Forge FC (@ForgeFCHamilton) May 18, 2022
🎟| https://t.co/7lKpBt7rTz#ForgeFC | #CanChamp pic.twitter.com/ShslUApmMC
4. HFX Wanderers
Up next, we've got the other CPL team on Forge's side of the bracket, and that’s the Wanderers, who after a tidy win over League 1 Ontario's Guelph United, are now getting set to host TFC at Wanderers ground in one of the three CPL vs MLS matchups that are on tap for this round.
There, they arguably have the best chances of any of the three CPL teams in those games, as while TFC is the winningest team in this competition for a reason, and have made the final of the last 6 Canadian Championships, they're very wounded right now. In fact, due to a rash of injuries, as well as the late arrival of some key transfers (such as a certain Lorenzo Insigne), TFC are about as stretched as can be right now, heavily relying on their youngsters and second team to fill in the gaps right now.
Because of that, the Wanderers will fancy their chances in that game, especially at their home pitch, Wanderers Ground, where they've always been tough to beat (as CF Montreal knows from last year).
The reason why their chances are lower, however, is due to the way the bracket lines up with them afterwards. They would host a potential semi-final against Montreal or Forge, to be fair, but that'd still be a very tough game, and any potential final would have to be on the road.
So although their dreams of making the final four aren't realistic, things will get much harder after that, making things a bit tougher for them to dream of being able to make the final and then lift the trophy.
3. York United
Shifting to the other side of the bracket, however, things get interesting, and there might be no better example of that than York's path.
Having beat budding rivals, Atletico Ottawa, in the preliminary round, that's set up a great opportunity for them here, as they get the luxury of playing another CPL team in the quarter-finals.
The bad news, however? That CPL team is defending league champions, Pacific FC, who were also excellent in this competition last year, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps and Cavalry before narrowly falling to TFC in the semi-finals.
So although York will be happy to avoid an MLS team, a trip to the Island isn't much better. Plus, if they win, another away trip to either Cavalry or Vancouver awaits them, so it's not as if that's much better.
The good news, however? They're on the side who would host a final, should they make it that far, so they've got that going for them, but just making it that far would require quite the run, making for longer odds.
2. Cavalry FC
The first-ever CPL team to beat an MLS team, having beat the Whitecaps back in the 2019 edition of this competition, Cavalry will get a chance to repeat that feat again in this tournament, as they get set to host Vancouver in a rematch of that tie.
After narrowly edging Edmonton in the preliminary round, it's a huge opportunity for Cavalry, as they'll look to show that first win was no fluke. Which considering the current state of the Whitecaps, who despite being on a positive run of form, have lost a good chunk of their squad to injury and health protocols, there's no reason why they can't repeat the feat at home.
And if they do that, things would line up for them rather nicely, as they'd be guaranteed to host a fellow CPL team in the semi-finals, before hosting a potential final, making them the only team whose path to a trophy doesn't include an away game.
So while taking on the Whitecaps and then Pacific or York is no sure path to the final, it's one that they won't complain about, giving them good odds of surprising and making a run.
The Cavs have done it! 👏— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 25, 2019
For the first time ever, an MLS team has been beaten by a team from a different league in the #CanChamp.
Congratulations @CPLCavalryFC! 🥳
⚽️ #CanChampxOneSoccer pic.twitter.com/5V05eXRolX
1. Pacific FC
Finally, there's Pacific, who after their big run in 2021, which included becoming the second CPL team to beat an MLS team when they downed the Whitecaps, are looking to recreate that magic this time around.
Of course, they won't have to repeat that feat in the first round, as York awaits them, but should it come up, they'll be ready.
But no matter what happens, Pacific will be excited with how their path has been drawn up. Not only do they start by hosting a York team who they happened to host just a few days earlier in league action, but the semi-finals would either see them visit the Whitecaps, who they beat last year in this competition, or Cavalry, who they also beat last year a round later..
On top of the fact that they'd host a final, should they make it that far, things have really lined up for them to do well here, increasing their odds they can capture a bit of magic and go far this time around.
A magical night under the stars at Starlight Stadium tonight 🤩🤯 That’s how you fight for the Isle!!— Pacific FC (@Pacificfccpl) August 27, 2021
They’ll be telling stories of this match on the Island for generations! Soak it in PFC fans 💜💜💜#ForTheIsle | #PacificFC | #CanChamp | #PACvVWFC pic.twitter.com/jnuIzZslRd