Cavalry Set To Embrace ‘Global Story’ In Club’s First Continental Competition
Tonight will see Canadian Premier League regular season winners Cavalry FC lock in their first-ever opponents on the continental scale, and the moment isn’t lost on front office member and former player Mason Trafford.
“This is taking Cavalry global. This is a global story,” Mason told the Calgary Sun in the buildup to tonight’s draw. As the club’s commercial and marketing director, he knows the significance of the global spotlight brought on by the Concacaf Champions Cup.
The expanded form of Concacaf’s premier club competition will see league and cup champions vie to prove themselves best in the continent and, of course, secure a main prize that could cover Cavalry’s own annual player expenses for years to come…if they can go all the way.
Beyond that, Trafford is excited about the opportunity for Calgary’s own to square off against global brands – clubs who can fill 100,000 fans into their home venues, or those he says could turn Spruce Meadows into ‘;’feeling like a home venue’ for the away support.
Or, you know, potentially bringing Lionel Messi to Calgary if they can reach Inter Miami in the later stages of the competition.
“This is a moment in Cavalry history that we hope we can broaden our fanbase,” continues Trafford. “Like people can kind of go ‘whoa, I did not realize they were on this level. Like I’ve heard about this team, but I didn’t know they’re playing against teams that I kind of recognize’.”
The club could face a hefty selection of MLS or Liga MX sides, all of whom dwarf the CPL team in terms of budget and stature – though Canada’s top flight has showcased itself well in competitions prior.
This is Cavalry’s first time up to bat, however, and the club can draw against giants like Club America, Monterrey, and Tigres, or face closer MLS competition with the likes of New England Revolution or FC Cincinnati. None of them will come easy, and all of them fought hard to get here.
Only CPL rivals Forge FC – who are also in the cup by way of besting Cavalry in the postseason to become playoff champions – have represented Canada’s top flight in this competition before. They lost out 4-1 aggregate against Mexican giants Cruz Azul, who themselves didn’t qualify for next year’s iteration of the tournament and won’t be in the draw tonight.
Head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. is hoping to draw against Major League Soccer opponents in either Nashville or Orlando, the former of which would see Lukas MacNaughton suit up against familiar opposition.
Outside of the USA? There’s one that stands out on a personal level with the Cavalry gaffer: Tigres, who fielded a B-team against Cavalry two preseasons ago. It goes further back than that for Tommy, though.
“I remember having the conversation with [ Cavalry assistant coach] Leon Hapgood, who reminded me by saying ‘you said that one day we’ll face Tigres’. This was in the moment where we were trying to build our careers and build a platform to work in Canada. So, if that happened, that would be probably quite a sentimental vision that I would’ve had back then.”
While tonight’s draw could prove to set the stage for sporting history in Calgary, there’s a long road ahead regardless of who they end up facing. With the first round taking place in February, the competition comes at a time when the club won’t be match fit, forcing an earlier start to preseason.
That doesn’t stop Wheeldon Jr. from feeling the magic of the cup, especially given that he’s proven a history maker for Cavalry against bigger clubs in cup competition before.
“It’s a fantastic tournament, isn’t it?” adds the gaffer. “It’s best against the best across the continent. We’re the league winners, and we’re facing other league and playoff and cup competition winners.”
The draw for the 2024 Concacaf Champions League will take place tonight at 7:00PM EST (5:00PM MT) and will be live on Concacaf’s YouTube channel.
Source: Calgary Sun