The Montreal Impact, the only winless team in MLS, is on the verge of an important league milestone and potential future payday of at least $1 million.
Montreal will host Mexico’s Club America on Wednesday in front of a sold-out home crowd of 61,000 at Olympic Stadium in the final game of the Concacaf Champions League. The two teams are tied 1-1 after the first game, meaning a Montreal victory or 0-0 tie would give the Major League Soccer squad the crown.
They would be the first MLS team to win the tournament in its current form, earning a spot in the global club championship organized by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. That comes with a $1 million guaranteed payout for the team, and maximum haul of $5 million for a title.
A win Wednesday would also be significant for the league, which has aspirations of being among the world’s elite by 2022.
“It’s a great opportunity to make history, to put this city on the world footballing map,” Montreal midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker told reporters Tuesday. “Opportunities like this don’t come around too often.”
Montreal spent 17 days in Mexico in February preparing for its quarterfinals series against Pachuca. MLS also moved two league games to help clear the team’s schedule, allowing the Impact to leave six days early for their road leg against Club America last week, which they tied 1-1.
The FIFA Club World Cup is an annual seven-team tournament comprised of the top club teams from all six continental confederations and one from the host nation. The December event will be held in Japan, where Montreal or Club America will represent Concacaf, the federation for North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
$1 Million Payout
The Concacaf team is guaranteed at least a sixth-place finish, which pays out $1 million, according to the federation. The reward increases depending on performance, with the runner-up claiming $4 million and the winner $5 million. No Concacaf team has ever won; the title always has gone to the European or South American champion.
The MLS salary cap is around $3.5 million this year, the first under a new collective bargaining agreement, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The average league salary last year was $226,454, according to the MLS players union.
That $1 million -- or more -- would be a significant boost for the team to pay for elite talent that falls outside the salary cap, bolster its youth development or fund stadium improvements.
Montreal this week announced it was releasing an additional 2,000 tickets -- face value $40-$125 -- to bring the sold-out capacity to 61,004. The team typically plays in 20,800-seat Saputo Stadium.
The Impact finished last season with the fewest points in MLS. They are the only winless squad in the league this year, with an MLS-low two points. Montreal qualified for the federation tournament as the Canadian club champion.