Can A Canadian Side Take The MLS Cup Back Up North?

Can A Canadian Side Take The MLS Cup Back Up North?

By Mike Rice.

Canadian goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair was named MVP in the recent Major League Soccer All-Star Game as the goalkeeper and his teammates representing MLS defeated their Liga MX counterparts.

The Minnesota United stopper is competing for minutes in the Qatar World Cup later this year as the focus now returns to the march towards the playoffs and more familiar rivalries; West versus East and the United States versus Canada.

Outnumbered three to 25, Canadian sides currently only have one club above the playoff line. CF Montréal are leading the way for the Great White North, sitting third in the East with a 10-point cushion over the four sides occupying seventh through 10th.


The possession-heavy side ranked fourth in MLS with an average of 54.8%, have ridden time without their highly influential attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic who missed six games through injury earlier this season.

Mihailovic was in MVP-level form before that injury and is currently with seven goals and three assists in his 19 MLS appearances this season. 

Ismaël Kone has performed so well he has been linked with a move to Europe, most notably so far with Norwich City.

His partnership with Victor Wanyama is one of the most impressive midfield pairings in the league and one that supports both sides of the ball well. Defensively they are hard-working and organised, while also being able to contribute in attack. 

With the addition of Alistair Johnston, they have given themselves opportunities to attack from both wing backs as well from the midfield which has provided the attacking players with a lot of opportunities.

Romell Quioto is the leading current MLS player for most touches in the box with 105. Only Valentin Castellanos has more with 121 but is no longer in the league.

At the other end of the pitch, Sebastian Breza has faced the 23rd most shots in MLS with just 45 — just 2.17 per 90 minutes.

Defensively they are well organised, as well as keeping hold of the ball for long periods and their defenders can progress the ball well, too. Kamal Miller has the fifth most progressive passes in MLS this season so far with 236 (Pedro Santos leads MLS with 291 from left back at Columbus Crew).

Montréal are currently the most organised and complete Canadian side in MLS and one which will be in the playoff spots, without doubt, come the end of the regular season.

FiveThirtyEight has them with a 4% chance of winning the MLS Cup — the fifth best. Only LAFC (33%), NYCFC (21%) and Philadelphia Union (15%) are in double figures. 

Statistically, they hold the best chance of bringing the MLS Cup to Canada and put aside their chances of a Canadian Championship challenge by resting key players in their Semi-Final match with Toronto back in June.

Toronto FC

Insigne Celebrates Toronto FC

TORONTO, ON – JULY 23: Jonathan Osorio #21 of Toronto FC celebrates a goal with Lorenzo Insigne (R) #24 and teammates in an MLS game against Charlotte FC at BMO Field on July 23, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The other side in the East, Toronto FC, have started slowly but are grabbing all of the headlines. Bringing in Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernadeschi, Domenico Criscito, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Richie Laryea and Doneil Henry shows an intent to turn things around immediately.

Bob Bradley has a roster which has seen a rapid overhaul and players who could walk into any side in the league. Organising his side, keeping players happy and finding consistency is the challenge ahead of him.

Toronto’s slow start, with a roster which used many young players in the first half of the season, now puts pressure on its new stars to settle quickly and perform immediately. They sit in 13th in the East, but only four points off the playoff line where Chicago Fire currently are, on 30 points. 

The conference is very tight and a run in the second half of the season can propel them into the playoffs, especially with so many sides struggling to keep a consistent run going. But will this be enough in the playoffs should they make it?

FiveThirtyEight gives them a 9% chance of making the playoffs, but with the additions that have been made, this is something that the Toronto ownership feel is well within their reach.

In attack, their players are showing signs of blending and forming dangerous link-up play that brings in midfield runners into the attack, spearheaded by Jesús Jiménez. The midfield three of Mark-Anthony Kaye, Jonathan Osorio and Michael Bradley is as good as any. The issues arise when one or more are unavailable.

Keeping players fit throughout the season and playoffs can be tough and losing a key player in the attack could cause big issues in one-off matches especially. 

Defensively they also have work to do, but this is a roster built to win. They don’t have the consistency of Montréal but they have the stars. Just relying on outscoring your opponents is a risky strategy but one all neutral fans can get behind. They could be seen as somewhat of a wildcard should they reach the playoffs, but their slow start has given them a small mountain to climb.

Vancouver Whitecaps

That leaves us with the lone Canadian side in the West, Vancouver Whitecaps. 

Vanni Sartini has already guided his side to the Canadian Championship, defeating Toronto on penalties, so they can train happily knowing that next season’s campaign will definitely begin with the Concacaf Champions League (CCL).

Like Toronto, they are out of the playoff picture at the moment, and the West, though tight, has a number of big sides still trying to break in.

CCL winners Seattle Sounders, as well as the LA Galaxy, are eighth and ninth respectively, while Vancouver are 11th — just three points off the playoffs.

The Whitecaps have made smart additions in this transfer window. Bringing in Julian Gressel from DC United and Alessandro Schöpf from Arminia Bielefeld has given the team a more balanced impressive look.

Gressel’s addition, with him being one of the best right-wing backs in the league, was one that would have especially delighted forwards Lucas Cavallini and Brian White. The quality of his delivery ensures that from both sides of the pitch there is the opportunity to get the ball into the box early.

FiveThirtyEight has Vancouver with a 19% chance of making the playoffs, much higher than Toronto’s chances, though as much as their additions have been good there are still areas that need addressing.

Due to the quality in the Western Conference, they seem the most likely of the three Canadian sides to miss out on the playoffs. The fact they have already won the Canadian Championship though will take away any hurt which would come with that.

The case for them — they have gained 13 points so far from goals scored in the 85th minute or later which is the best in MLS. This never-say-die attitude would help them should they remain in games, but that’s if they even get there.

The smart, though maybe not so exciting money should go on Montréal. They have built a strong roster and are a consistently well-performing side, but how can you write off the Italian superstars of Toronto? 

LAFC have a 33% chance of MLS Cup glory and look odds on to take home the Supporters Shield as well. For the Canadian sides looking to bring glory north of the border, they will have to beat some of the favourites as well as the odds.

Toronto have their name in MLS Cup history as the only Canadian side to win it, in 2017. To be able to add another club to that list this year would be an impressive feat, but one Wilfried Nancy and Bob Bradley especially will feel is possible, sorry Whitecaps fans.