Ty Harden in action against Vancouver.

Changes To NCC Anticipated

TORONTO – The format for the Nutrilite Canadian Championship is likely to change in 2011, Toronto FC business director Paul Beirne confirmed to MLSsoccer.com.

In the past, TFC, Vancouver and the NASL’s Montreal Impact competed in a home-and-home round-robin tournament. The club with the most points at the end was crowned champion, took home the Voyagers Cup and advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round.

With the addition of NASL expansion club FC Edmonton for the 2011 season, however, the format necessitated a change. With the MLS clubs facing a 34-game regular season next year – two more than in 2010 – there was a general consensus that a four-team round-robin wouldn’t work.

A rumor surfaced last week that suggested that the tournament would move towards a knockout format. Reached for comment Sunday, Beirne confirmed that discussions have taken place to move the NCC in that direction.

“We were leaning toward a one-vs.-four and two-vs.-three [semifinal], and then a one-game final,” said Beirne.

Such a format would see 2010 defending champion Toronto play newcomers Edmonton, while Vancouver and Montreal would face each other in a rematch of the 2009 USL championship game. The semifinal would be a two-leg aggregate affair, and the final would be hosted by the highest seed.

One advantage of this format is that it will create a championship game. In 2009, the tournament ended in controversy when Toronto defeated a reserve-heavy Montreal 6-1. The size of the victory allowed TFC to overtake Vancouver in the table to win the title. The Whitecaps then accused Montreal, who had already been eliminated from the tournament, of failing to respect the spirit of competition.

But with the positive comes the negative. The proposed change opens up the possibility of Toronto and Montreal not meeting in 2011. The Reds and Impact have quickly become each other’s fiercest rival despite never having played in the same league.