Can Toronto FC repeat as Voyageur Cup champions?

Toronto-FC

Toronto FC's Benoit Cheyrou, centre, and his teammates celebrate with the Voyageurs Cup after defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps in last year's final. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

The Canadian Club Championship shifts into high gear this week with the second leg of the semifinals.

On Tuesday, the Vancouver Whitecaps visit the Montreal Impact after earning a 2-1 win at home last week.

Defending Canadian champions Toronto FC host the Ottawa Fury on Wednesday, with the Reds needing to overcome a 2-1 loss to the second-tier United Soccer League side last week in the nation’s capital.

Here are a few things you should know about the competition.

THE RULES

Each semifinal is a two-game aggregate series with the away goals rule in effect.

The semifinal winners will meet in the two-legged final, to be played during the weeks of June 20 and June 27.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The winner of this tournament will receive the Voyageurs Cup, which was originally funded and awarded by the Voyageurs, a Canadian soccer supporters group founded in 1996. Since 2008, the Canadian Soccer Association has presented the Voyageurs Cup to the tournament champion.

HISTORY OF THE VOYAGEURS CUP

The Montreal Impact won every Voyageurs Cup from 2002-2007 when the trophy was awarded to the best Canadian team in the old USL First Division.

A formal round-robin tournament was first held in 2008, a year after Toronto FC entered Major League Soccer. Montreal won the 2008 Cup to continue its dominance, but TFC won the next four tournaments in a row. The Impact claimed back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014.

Vancouver knocked off Montreal in 2015 to win their first Voyageurs Cup, but couldn’t repeat as they lost a heartbreaker against Toronto in last year’s final.

GATEWAY TO THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Toronto FC won last year’s Canadian tournament, and under normal circumstances they would have qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Reds will earn a spot in the 2018 Champions League if they repeated as Canadian champions.

However, if Ottawa, Montreal or Vancouver wins, they will face Toronto in a one-off game on Aug. 9 at BMO Field to decide who qualifies for the Champions League.

GEORGE GROSS MEMORIAL TROPHY

The tournament MVP is awarded the George Gross Memorial Trophy, named after the late Canadian journalist who pioneered soccer coverage in Canada.

Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto) and Justin Mapp (Montreal) have both won the honour twice. Toronto’s Benoit Cheyrou took home the trophy last year.

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