Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal-Toronto, a rivalry like no other

The last Impact game in Montreal in 2016, on Tuesday, November 22, at 8pm at the Olympic Stadium, promises to be a good one.

The Bleu-blanc-noir’s path to MLS Cup goes through the Eastern Conference Championship and another episode of the greatest sports rivalry in Canada: Montreal against Toronto.

While many fans would have liked to see two New York teams up against each other, this series will feature two teams that know each other well and have built, over the course of several socio-politically and historically charged contests, a rivalry like no other in MLS.

“This is a fantastic scenario for Montreal and for Canada,” said team captain Patrice Bernier. “New York v. New York would have been interesting for many people, but you also see that some of our games are getting picked up by American TV and that Montreal-Toronto does sell. We’ll make sure that this game sells – but mostly for the Montreal Impact.

“Since 2013, in every game against them, the stakes have been high for either us or them, and it fuels the rivalry,” Bernier continued. “In recent years, both teams have aimed for a good playoff run. Since late 2013, the value of every game has risen, and the one that’s coming up is the biggest one yet. The Conference Championship.”

The occasion has already convinced over 30,000 of the Bleu-blanc-noir faithful that have already gotten their hands on tickets to this Conference Championship first leg since Sunday, at a pace resembling the excitement that preceded the memorable CONCACAF Champions League final against Club América in April 2015.

That night, the sold-out stadium (61,004 fans) had given an irresistible momentum, early on, to the Impact, which opened the scoring eight minutes in. Although Montreal ended up conceding defeat to the Mexican club, the team does wish for similar support from the locals – albeit with a different ending.

“We need 60,000,” said Dominic Oduro. “The fans should come out. We’re playing against Toronto. What else do you want? It can’t get any better. I encourage them to come out and support us, as they did against Club América in the Champions League.”

Added Bernier: “I’m convinced that Montreal can fill up that stadium. People understand that every game is like sudden death. Over 30,000 tickets are gone, but there’s room for more people. We have to fill it up. This is a nice stadium, but it’s much nicer when it’s packed with 60,000 people. The 12th player will have a key role, and we’ll need Montreal.”