MLS Rivalry Week: The Great Canadian 401 Derby

Montreal Impact will face off against Toronto FC tonight in what you could call the biggest soccer derby in Canada. While the two cities are connected by the Ontario Highway 401, there is nothing but division between the fans of these two passionate cities.

Roughly 336 miles apart, these two cities are full of historic sporting rivalries, most notably hockey. While the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have been battling it out for decades on the ice, Montreal and Toronto have also been longtime foes on the soccer pitch.

Dating back to the 1970s, these two cities have had their taste of professional soccer. The Toronto Metros and Montreal Olympique dominated the Canadian soccer scene in the old North American Soccer League (NASL). Since then, clubs from both cities have played in numerous soccer leagues such as the Canadian soccer League, the American Professional Soccer League, and the Premier Development League. With both teams now in Major League Soccer and having played each other eight times in conference play, the rivalry has intensified and could even be called a Canadian soccer classic. Since 2012, Montreal has taken two wins from their meetings and Toronto has grabbed three while the teams have had three draws.

But a rivalry is nothing without fans.

Photo by Stephen Gardiner.
TFC Fans in the South Stands. Photo by Stephen Gardiner.

While passions are flaring on the pitch, the emotion extends to the supporters. In Toronto, the U-Sector and Red Patch Boys are the biggest supporter groups for Toronto FC while the Ultras Montréal defend the Impact. Both teams have the luxury of playing in soccer-specific stadiums which intensifies the rivalry even more.

While any meeting between the two teams is sure to be entertaining, these three matches really set the stage for the historic rivalry:

1) April 7th, 2012 – Montreal Impact 2 – Toronto FC 1. The inaugural meeting between the two sides.

Photo via: Major League Soccer
Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer

Playing on their home field in front of 24,000 fans, Montreal got their names etched in the history books by being the first 401 Derby winner while also grabbing their first ever win in Major League Soccer.

2) May 1st, 2013 – Montreal Impact 6 – Toronto FC 0. (yes, 6!)

Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer

While this game was not a regular MLS season game but a Canadian Championship game, it left a chip on Toronto’s shoulder. To this day, this scoreline is still stands as the widest margin of goals scored during this Canadian derby. While Toronto grabbed a 1-0 win later on in the season, this was an unlucky year for the Reds, finishing second to last in the eastern conference. (Toronto had a 6-1 victory in a 2009 Canadian Championship match so this was payback with a clean-sheet, a double-payback of sorts…)

3) August 2, 2014 Toronto FC 2 – Montreal Impact 0. 

From the kickoff, Toronto was in control of this match and gained a road win against their rivals. TFC opened the scoring in the 11th minute and never looked back. With their newest designated player Michael Bradley staring in his first 401 derby and gaining the opening assist, it was a great night out for the Reds.

Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer
Photo courtesy: Major League Soccer

With their ninth regular season meeting tonight, this rivalry match has serious playoff implications. Toronto is currently one spot above Montreal with one game in hand and two more points than Montreal. Both teams have similar points per game and identical goals against at 18 each. A win from either team could lift them high in the eastern conference standings with plenty of games ahead compared to their eastern conference foes. With Montreal having never gained an away win at BMO field in Toronto, this clash could be one of the best between the two. Kick-off is Wednesday 6/24, 8 pm ET, watch on TSN, RDS (CAN); MLS Live (USA)

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