This Saturday will be the first time this season the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC will meet in regular season play. The league has failed to highlight the TFC-Impact rivalry since the Montreal Impact joined Major League Soccer. With little promotion and poorly scheduled games, the rivalry between TFC and Montreal has not come close to reaching its full potential. One merely has to look at the 2013 scheduling to see an issue, particularly when taking into account another sport Canadians have an accute affinity for:
- March 16, 2013 – Montreal Impact 2 – Toronto FC 1 – Olympic Stadium
- July 3, 2013 – Toronto FC 3 – Montreal Impact 3 – BMO Field
- October 26, 2013 – Toronto FC 1 – Montreal Impact 0 – BMO Field
Major League Soccer vs the National Hockey League
The first and most obvious problem is the scheduling of the games. Having to compete against the NHL anywhere in Canada is no easy feat. Looking back at the 2013 MLS schedule, the first meeting between the Impact and TFC was scheduled less than a month before the NHL playoffs. As with most Saturday nights during the winter months, both Toronto and Montreal NHL games dominate the media focus for the day. On the opposite end of the MLS schedule, the Impact and TFC met in October, which is at the start of the NHL season. On that particular evening the Leafs played Sidney Crosby and the Penguins at the Air Canada Centre, while the Habs faced the Sharks at the Bell Centre.
MLS will never be able to compete against the Canadiens or Leafs, but they should look at avoiding these conflicts with hockey. On an NHL game-day Canadian media is fixated on the hockey game that night, and little else in the sports world receives any coverage. Perhaps MLS should consider scheduling the Impact and TFC to play twice during the summer months and once at the end of the season, avoiding a clash with the NHL. Another potential solution could be moving more MLS games to Sunday, avoiding the conflict with hockey all-together.
MLS Rivalries…Not Just about Cascadia:
Although MLS has found a goldmine in the rivalries between the teams in the Northwest, it should not neglect other rivalries. It seems wrong that these two teams haven’t met in regular season MLS play since last October. The Toronto-Montreal rivalry transcends sports and MLS, Canadian sports media, and the supporters of both teams have the potential to turn this rivalry into something special. So please MLS, don’t force TFC fans to risk their lives by watching games in the Olympic Stadium, or make Impact supporters brave the winds coming off of Lake Ontario at the end of October; the Winter Classic belongs to the NHL.
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Main Photo via USA Today Sports