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B.C.'s two professional soccer clubs will face off for the first time on Thursday night in Langford, B.C., as Pacific FC takes on the Vancouver Whitecaps in what supporters promise will be a "fierce" occasion.
The 'Caps have been the province's biggest soccer club, in various iterations, for nearly 40 years, while Pacific FC, known to its fans as the Tridents, has only been in existence for three years as a founding member of the Canadian Premier League.
But tonight's clash at the Starlight Stadium will see the Tridents looking to upset the major league Whitecaps in a preliminary round of the Canadian Championship.
Vancouver last won the championship in 2015, while Pacific did not end up progressing beyond the preliminary round in its only previous appearance in 2019.
"Unarguably, this is the biggest game in Pacific FC history. It's a game that everyone has been waiting for since the announcement of the club," said Mike Geldreich, the president of the Pacific FC supporters' group Lakeside Buoys, on CBC's The Early Edition.
Pacific currently sits atop the Canadian Premier League at the halfway point of the season, but the Whitecaps, currently on the longest unbeaten streak in team history, go into the match with momentum.
Their first home match in 539 days on Saturday saw them beat Los Angeles FC at B.C. Place after an 89th minute winner from newly-acquired midfielder Ryan Gauld.
"We have to go for it. The Whitecaps coaching and the club wants to win this tournament and be the Canadian champion," said Peter Czimmermann, secretary of the Vancouver Southsiders, the Whitecaps' biggest supporters' club.
Potential for an upset
Czimmermann says he is cautious ahead of the match, the first local soccer contest of its kind in years in the province, and the first away match 'Caps fans can attend in a year and a half.
"We know we are a better team. We should be winning this game. But as you know, it's soccer ... [it] has its ups and downs and unexpected results," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.
Geldreich anticipates a raucous atmosphere at the Starlight, as the Tridents host their first Canadian Championship match in nearly two years.
"I've been in contact with members of the Southsiders in order to help create this hopefully unforgettable atmosphere today," he said.
"That's the hope — is that anyone who isn't in the stadium regrets not being able to come over and see it."
Seats have been sold out at the stadium ahead of the match, with fans expected to be masked in line with provincial guidelines.
The winner of the contest will face Cavalry FC of the CPL in the following round. The Calgary-based club was responsible for eliminating both Pacific FC and the Whitecaps in the 2019 edition of the championship.
The cup competition is fought among Canadian teams from MLS, CPL, and the winners of the Ontario and Quebec soccer leagues. Winners go on to represent Canada at the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Champions League.