TORONTO - The good news for Toronto FC: If it beats the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, the team clinches the Nutrilite Canadian Championship with a game to spare.
The bad news: If TFC wins, the competition is essentially over, even though there are two games left to play in the tourneyís schedule after Wednesdayís night game out in B.C. Both of those matches ó a date next week between Montreal and Vancouver and then the Whitecaps and TFC at BMO Field in two weeks time ó would become nothing more than glorified, meaningless friendlies.
Itís another sign that a round-robin format to decide a Cup simply doesnít work. This tournament needs a championship game.
You canít blame each and every Canadian Soccer Association member if they cheer for the Whitecaps on Wednesday. They need a result from coach Teitur Thordarsonís men to save this country from the most anticlimactic tournament ever.
And Rogers Communications, which has already been sloughing games off to its Sportsnet East and West regional networks, leaving the Ontario and Pacific regions with other material, would probably like to launch a new Sportsnet Arctic regional channel on which to park the final two games of the NCC if Toronto wins Wednesday.
After a fantastic, exciting debut in 2008, the NCCís three-team round-robin format has been poor in 2009 and 2010.
Last year, the Montreal Impact, already mathematically eliminated from contention, started a team of scrubs in the final game against Toronto FC. Vancouver knew it would clinch the title if Montreal found a way not to lose by four goals.
Mission accomplished, sort of. The Impactís taxi squad didn't lose by four. It lost by five. TFC took a vainglorious championship.
Now, this season, TFC could wrap-up the tourney at just past the halfway point. Ugly.
Changes will come next season. The CSA knew that the format was going to be a three-season experiment. And FC Edmonton, the new NASL expansion club, will join the foray next season.
If itís a four-team tournament, the simple solution is to break the four teams into two aggregate-goal series, then have the two winners face each other in a final.
But, if the CSA is married to a full round-robin schedule, Iíll stick to the suggestion that I have been floating for years. (Actually, I've been going on about this since Year 1 of the tournament.) Once the round robin is done, have the first- and second-place finishers meet in a true Cup final. As a reward, the first-place team would get home-field advantage.
If that was the case this year, then Toronto FC would be playing to clinch home-field advantage on Wednesday, and weíd still have games that would mean something as this tournament went on, as Montreal and Vancouver would fight to be the other team in a championship game.
Before the season, the teamís made a gentlemanís agreement to not start the scrubs in the wake of last seasonís Montreal debacle. But, that was assuming that the third team would make sure to remain competitive if the other two were still alive for a championship. But, if this tournament is basically over this week, all bets will be off. And Canadian soccer will be worse for it.
And Sportsnet Arctic will soon be available somewhere in the 600s on your digital cable box.