November 30, 2016 / 12:17 AM / 8 months ago

Impact and TFC poised to add to Montreal-Toronto rivalry

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Nov 22, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba (11) interacts with fans after the first leg game against the Toronto FC of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto versus Montreal is always a hot ticket among sport fans in Canada's two biggest cities but it usually involves hockey not soccer as it will on Wednesday when the Impact and Toronto FC clash for a spot in the MLS Cup final.

A sell-out crowd of close to 36,000 is expected at Toronto's BMO Field for the second leg of the Eastern conference final with Montreal holding the advantage after a nervy 3-2 win in the opening leg at home in front of 61,000 at Stade Olympique.

The winners will be the first Canadian-based franchise to reach the Major League Soccer final.

If Toronto prevail they will host the championship game on Dec. 10 against the Seattle Sounders, who beat the Colorado Rapids in the West.

However, if the Impact hold on to their advantage, Seattle will host the MLS Cup final by virtue of having a better regular season record than Montreal.

"For sure it is in our hands," said TFC striker Sebastian Giovinco. "That's the goal to win this final and get to the final for the MLS Cup.

"Knowing that if we win the MLS Cup final will be in Toronto, that is additional motivation for everybody."

Bitter Rivalry

Toronto and Montreal's rivalry has been a long and often bitter one, with passions stoked by a French-English cultural and social divide that has seen the two cities engage in a game of civic pride and oneupmanship.

Montreal has hosted an Olympics while Toronto settled for the less prestigious Pan Am Games. Montreal stages a round of motor racing's glamour Formula One circuit and Toronto has IndyCar.

Montreal was the first Canadian city to have a Major League Baseball team until the franchise relocated to Washington in 2005. The Toronto Blue Jays have twice won the World Series.

The Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes collide on the Canadian Football League gridiron but it is in hockey where passions burn brightest - the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs having faced off 805 times in a rivalry dating back to 1917.

With Montreal having only begun to play soccer in 2012, the Impact and TFC rivalry may not be as long or storied but it has quickly developed into one of the most heated in the MLS.

The teams have met six times this season but it is last year's 3-0 rout that knocked TFC out of the opening round of the MLS playoffs that provided the necessary bad blood to officially establish soccer as the newest Montreal-Toronto rivalry.

"It's Toronto-Montreal, so I think the hatred is built in from the start," Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush told the CBC prior to their opening leg win on Nov. 22. "You don't have to play them six times to figure that out.

"We play them a lot, whether it's regular season, Canadian Cup and now the playoffs, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

"You want to play in big rivalry games."

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Ken Ferris

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