The long delay is over.
Toronto FC will face Forge FC in the final of the 2020 Canadian Championship on Saturday at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton.
Every year the Canadian Championship is held to determine who will lift the Voyageurs Cup and, as Canada’s top club, represent the nation in the Concacaf Champions League.
Every year that is, except 2020.
In the heart of the pandemic, the usual cup format had to be scrapped. In its stead, intra-league matches were used to determine who would represent Major League Soccer and who would represent the Canadian Premier League.
For the MLS sides, with border restrictions in place, the pathway took the form of a series of nine all-Canadian matches played between August 18 and September 13 with each of TFC, the then Montreal Impact (now CF Montreal) and Vancouver Whitecaps FC playing each other three times.
The CPL representative was determined at the 2020 CPL Island Games.
A little under a month removed from the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida, TFC defeated the Whitecaps in the opening two matches – 3-0 and 1-0, respectively – at BMO Field.
Toronto won their third game as well, defeating Montreal 1-0 at Stade Saputo, but then lost the next two – at home against Montreal (1-0) and away to Vancouver (3-2) – before closing out the series with a 2-1 win in Montreal over the Impact with Jozy Altidore scoring the 89th minute winner.
Having won the first meeting between the sides at home in August, Montreal’s 4-2 victory in the penultimate game of the series away to Vancouver on September 13 set up the potential for a dramatic conclusion.
Entering that final match day, TFC stood on 12 points, the Impact on nine, and the Whitecaps on three. Should Montreal win, both sides would have been equal on points and wins, the first tie-breaker, so it would have come down to goal-difference. Toronto had the advantage there, a +4 to Montreal’s +3, the slimmest of margins.
But Vancouver did Toronto a favour, dispatching Montreal 3-1 at BC Place with a first half red card to Rudy Camacho and a Fredy Montero penalty kick subduing some of the potential drama.
Near simultaneously on Prince Edward Island, the reigning CPL Champions, Forge were one of four teams to advance out of the First Stage of the Island Games. They then entered a four-team Group Stage, each facing the other once, with the top two sides meeting in the Final.
Forge topped that group with wins over Cavalry FC and Pacific FC, drawing the other game with HFX Wanderers FC, who they would meet in the Final, where second half strikes from Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson and Maxim Tissot proved the difference and Forge were named CPL champions for a second-year running.
There was some hope that the first-ever meeting between the Ontario-based clubs could be squeezed in in time to determine which would represent Canada in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, but for a number of factors it was announced on March 11, 2021 that the final would again to postponed and TFC would be awarded the Champions League spot. In exchange, Forge would be given the right to host the game at their home ground.
15 months later, with the 2021 edition and two stages into the 2022 edition of the Canadian Championships played, who will be the 2020 champions will finally be decided.
At stake is the Voyageurs Cup and bragging rights.
For Toronto it would be their eighth title, their first since 2018 having lost in both the 2019 and 2021 finals to Montreal, and the first for this new group under Bob Bradley. For Bobby Smyrniotis’ Forge, it would be their first – and the first ever won by a non-MLS side.
TFC and Forge have still never met. There’s no better way to begin another provincial derby than with a cup final.