After three consecutive years of finishing as runner-up to Toronto FC in the Canadian championship, 2012 could finally be the Vancouver Whitecaps' year to claim the Voyageurs Cup.
Considering Toronto FC's struggles and Vancouver's rise to respectability after a trying MLS expansion season, the Whitecaps are the favorites entering this year's Canadian championship, which commences Wednesday night.
With a berth in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League looming as the final prize, the two-legged semifinals kick off with Toronto taking on the Montreal Impact and Vancouver meeting upstart NASL foe FC Edmonton.
For more on the Canadian tournament that has been traditionally dominated by TFC, check out Fox Soccer's preview.
Here is a closer look at the opening-round matchups:
TORONTO FC vs. MONTREAL IMPACT
First Leg: Wednesday, 8 p.m., Olympic Stadium
Second Leg: May 9, 8 p.m., BMO Field
Breakdown: Toronto FC need this. Badly. After an 0-7-0 start in league play and a devastating loss to Real Salt Lake over the weekend, Toronto can save some face by resuming its dominance in this tournament. In order to do that, the desperate Reds will have to avoid a repeat of what happened not even a month ago, when they went to Olympic Stadium and became the Impact's first MLS victim in a 2-1 defeat.
Montreal has started to find its groove over the last few weeks, playing D.C. United to a road draw and defeating the Portland Timbers at home. The two teams and rivals appear headed in opposite directions, but all of that can change with a single result in Montreal, and to their credit, Toronto FC players and coaches appear to be feeling confident despite the rocky start to 2012.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. FC EDMONTON
First Leg: Wednesday, 10 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium
Second Leg: May 9, 11 p.m., BC Place
Breakdown: FC Edmonton is backstopped by CONCACAF Under-23 championship standout and Canadian international Michal Misiewiscz, but he'll need to be at his best to shut down Vancouver's multi-pronged attack.
Vancouver, 4-2-2 in league play, won't be at full strength after reportedly leaving Jay DeMerit, Camilo and Young-Pyo Lee behind so they will be rested for this weekend's big MLS match against San Jose. Even so, it would be a shock for FC Edmonton, which is off to an NASL-worst 0-3-1 start, to pull off the upset. One of the players Vancouver will need to key in on is Chilean U-20 standout Yashir Pinto, who has set up two of FCE's three goals in limited time this season.
Who do you see winning the Canadian championship? Do you think Toronto FC still has what it takes to make a run at the title? Think it's Vancouver's year?
Share your thoughts below.