Canadian Championship: Ottawa wins 1-0 over Edmonton in first of two match qualifying round

The 10th edition of the Canadian Championship kicked off in Ottawa with hosts Fury FC defeating FC Edmonton in the first of two matches in a head-to-head elimination series to determine who will take on Toronto FC in the Semi-final. Ottawa Fury FC now head to Edmonton with a 1-0 series lead ahead of the second leg of the series on 10 May at Clarke Field.

Canadian goalkeeper Callum Irving was the star of the match with a trio of key saves, one point blank on Edmonton's Canadian midfielder Allan Zebie in the 59th minute. Irving's performance set the scene for goalscorer Ryan Williams to deliver the late heroics in the 89th minute.

As the only all-Canada competition that leads to the international stage, including the CONCACAF Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup, the Canadian Championship is viewed as a prestigious event unparalleled in Canada.

"It was just a reaction (save)," said Irving. "We knew it was going to be a battle. These two teams have played each other quite a few times and this being a Canadian Championship match, there was a lot of pride on the line and a lot at stake. I think we both came into it willing to fight for the first leg and I expected nothing less from Edmonton or our guys with Ottawa. I am just happy we were able to turn that battle into a 1-0 win."

New Canadian Content rules introduced by Canada Soccer in 2017 include the requirement that a minimum of three Canadians are in the starting lineup for all Canadian Championship matches which will result in more Canadian players taking the pitch than in any previous editions of the competition’s 10-year history.

"We have a home match next week and all our focus is on that match," said FC Edmonton captain and Canadian midfielder Nik Ledgerwood. "It's a great little rivalry we have (with Ottawa) even if we are not close in distance, but the rivalry has been built up over the years. These rivalries bring fans out and help showcase Canadian talent."

Both sides dressed five Canadians in the match. Home side Ottawa Fury FC started Callum Irving (goal), Eddie Edward, and Jamar Dixon while David Paulmin and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère dressed but did not feature. Away side FC Edmonton started Tyson Farago (goal), Allan Zebie, Ben Fisk, and captain Nik Ledgerwood while Adam Straith dressed but did not feature.

"When there are kids watching the Canadian Championship and they see Canadians playing in it, I think it only does well for Canadian development as they have (a competition) in which they hope to play one day," said Irving. "The more Canadian players you can get on the field for these matches, then all the better. It was nice to have my first Canadian Championship match (tonight) as I have grown up watching this competition. I hope it is the first match of many."

The Battle of the North

“We’re calling this competition The Battle of the North because it really is the pinnacle of Canadian club soccer, and the only competition that gives Canadian professional clubs an opportunity to advance to the international stage,” said Peter Montopoli, General Secretary for Canada Soccer. “Canadian clubs have come close to securing a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup in the past, including the Montréal Impact in 2015. We are confident we’ll see some world-class soccer in each of these upcoming Canadian Championship matches.”

The Path to the FIFA Club World Cup

The path to the FIFA Club World Cup will start at home with the Qualifying Round, whose winner will join Canada’s three MLS teams for home and away Semi-final series. The home and away Final round will culminate with the final match on 27 June where the winner will be crowned 2017 Canadian Champion and raise the Voyageurs Cup. A special one-match Battle of the North playoff between the 2016 Canadian Championships winners Toronto FC and the 2017 winners will be played on 9 August in Toronto to determine who will advance, unless Toronto FC repeats as Canadian winners.

The winners of the Battle of the North will have earned its spot to compete in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, the region’s most prestigious club tournament, that qualifies its champion directly to the FIFA Club World Cup.

One of the most distinguished club level trophies in soccer, the FIFA Club World Cup pits the winners of CONCACAF Champions League against the winners of the five other continental championships: Asia's AFC Champions League, Africa's CAF Champions League, South America's Copa Libertadores, Oceania's OFC Champions League, and Europe's UEFA Champions League. The competition also features the host nation's national champions.

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