Major League Soccer's Montreal Impact are playing for the CONCACAF Champions League title tonight. It's a trophy that has been won by a Mexican club six out of six times in the modern Champions League era. MLS has sent exactly one side to the final previously, which was Real Salt Lake in 2011. Incidentally, Montreal and Salt Lake are the only two teams outside of Mexico to ever even compete in the cup final.
MLS has been pretty excited about finally breaking Liga MX's hold on the competition. For a league trying to be one of the world's best, they haven't really been able to break through in an international club competition. For the record, LA Galaxy and D.C. United have won the precursor competition, the Champion's Cup.
Needless to say, MLS has sent its hype machine into overdrive, trying to promote both the game itself and Montreal. They have gone as far as changing their social media pages to Impact de Montréal blue.
And that's where I have a problem.
For a league that openly hypes rivalries between clubs to now expect all of MLS to support Montreal for a night is a bit uncomfortable, don't you think? Does the English Premier League Twitter page turn Manchester red or Chelsea blue for an entire two weeks before one of the clubs competes for the more illustrious UEFA Champions League? Highly unlikely. A polite tweet or two wishing them luck, one talking about the history of English clubs in the cup, and a few to tell interested viewers how and when they can watch is all I would expect the EPL site to have. It is all I'd expect MLS to do as well.
Additionally, we aren't talking about a classic MLS team in which even opposing fans around the league could quietly wish the best for on the night. This isn't a Beckham/ Donovan-led LA Galaxy or Henry's New York Red Bulls. This is a Canadian team that is notoriously awful in MLS. Even more, they are from Qubec, the part of Canada that wishes it wasn't Canadian and certainly doesn't want to associate with us uncouth Yanks.
Before I get into too much trouble, I should acknowledge, I love these Canadian cities and have either good memories or dreams of visiting all of them. How, though, did these cities even get into MLS?
Major League Soccer was founded after FIFA gave U.S. Soccer the opportunity to host the 1994 World Cup. The mission of the league then, and I assume now, is to grow the game in America.
How does having a franchise in three Canadian cities grow the game in the United States? How does having two of the USMNT's best players, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, playing in Toronto help grow the game in the U.S.?
For that matter, does it help grow the game in Canada? With too many American cities to count making solid arguments for MLS expansion, why has the league decided to ship three franchises north of the border?
And, why then, do they expect the "#MLS4Montreal nation" to cheer for them? I wish the Impact the best of luck tonight. I wish Club América the best of luck as well. I hope it's a good game and the best team wins. As an Orlando City supporter, I honestly don't care which team that is. #GoCity