LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

CF Montréal

New name, new crest, same old Canadian rivalry

A fan’s guide – the club from formation to today

The formerly named Montreal Impact, now CF Montréal, joined Major League Soccer for the 2012 season, two decades after Canadian businessman Joey Saputo founded the original club.

In 1994, his side became the United States and Canada’s de facto champion by winning the American Professional Soccer League. Two further championships were added in 2004 and 2009 in what was then the second-tier United Soccer Leagues First Division.

Montreal native Mauro Biello led the Impact in appearances and goals during two stints and 11 seasons with the team. Biello served as the MLS franchise’s assistant coach from its founding until being elevated to the top job on an interim basis in August 2015.

Saputo’s Sicilian father, Emanuele, was one of the world’s wealthiest men in the 1990s, turning the family dairy company into a publicly traded multinational business.

Stade Saputo/Ian Thomson

Strong financial backing allied with that Italian heritage has helped Montreal lure some high-profile names to Quebec in recent years.

Striker Marco Di Vaio became the Impact’s first designated player during its debut season and the former Italian international was soon joined by Azzurri and AC Milan legend Alessandro Nesta.

Montreal’s home MLS opener attracted 58,912 fans to the city’s Stade Olympique. The Los Angeles Galaxy’s visit two months later drew a then Canadian professional soccer record of 60,860 to the same venue. 

The Impact moved across the Olympic park into their refurbished 20,801-seat Stade Saputo midway through the first campaign.

Stade Saputo/Ian Thomson

An away-goals victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2013 Canadian Championship final brought the Impact their first major trophy and qualification for the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League. 

Montreal retained their Canadian title the following year before embarking on a run to the continental final where the team fell 5-3 on aggregate to storied Mexican side Club América. 

Two-time English Premier League Golden Boot winner Didier Drogba became Montreal’s biggest signing to date when he joined the franchise in July 2015. The Ivorian netted a hat trick against Chicago Fire in his first start for his new club and finished the regular season with 11 goals in 11 games to catapult the Impact into the playoffs.

Stade Olympique/Ian Thomson

Drogba added the final touch to a satisfying 3-0 win in the 401 Derby against arch rival Toronto, setting up an Eastern Conference semifinal clash with Columbus Crew. 

With the aggregate score tied at 3-3, the season turned on the last minutes of extra time, Kei Kamara scoring for Columbus, Ignacio Piatti missing a golden chance for Impact.

Piatti made amends with 17 goals in the regular season in 2016, Drogba (at 38!) bagging 11. With three more from Piatti, Impact overcame D.C. United and New York Red Bulls to set up another enticing 401 Derby with Toronto in the Conference Final.

In two games before packed stadiums in each city, 61,000 squeezed into Montreal’s Stade Olympique, the Canadian rivals hit 12 goals between them, TFC edging ahead in overtime at BMO Field. Ex-Toronto striker Dominic Oduro opened the scoring for Impact in both games, but to no avail.

Stade Saputo/Ian Thomson

Goals from Romell Quioto, a signing from Houston in 2020, pushed the Impact into the playoffs that year, the Honduran international shedding his ill-disciplined reputation to be nicknamed ‘El Romántico’ by Montreal fans. Quioto then tied the score at an empty Gillette Stadium in Foxborough but New England Revolution progressed in the playoffs thanks a winner in stoppage time.

The Impact had spent the latter part of the campaign playing home games at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey due to Covid regulations in Canada. In 2021, it was Miami, by which time the Impact had become Club de Foot Montréal much to supporters’ indignation. As ticket sales plummeted, this was then changed to CF Montréal in 2022.

Providing three members of Canada’s team at the World Cup in Qatar that year, including right-back Alistair Johnson whose performances earned him a transfer to Celtic, the renamed Montreal put together three unbeaten runs to finish second in the Eastern Conference. 

Creating chances for Romell Quioto was U.S. International playmaker Djordje Mihailovic, whose performances convinced AZ Alkmaar to bring him to Holland. In his last game in a Montreal jersey Mihailovic scored late in the playoff against New York City at Saputo Stadium, but it wasn’t enough to reverse the scoreline.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

For major games, such as the November 2016 Conference Final with Toronto, as well during the bleak start to the soccer season, the club switches from its regular Stade Saputo to the huge bowl of the Stade Olympique.

Both are located within Montreal’s Parc Olympique district about five miles north of the city centre. The area contains many of the venues used during the 1976 Summer Olympics.

Nicknamed both the Big O, due to its roof (hence winter use), and the Big Owe because of its astronomical cost, the Stade Olympique is gradually seeing more soccer use.

It was here in 1976 that East Germany won its only major honor. A 3-1 win over Kazimierz Deyna’s Poland earned the GDR the Olympic gold, in front of 71,617.

Widely considered a white elephant thereafter, Roger Taillibert’s space-age arena has seen 50,000-plus crowds for the 2007 U-20 World Cup, the Women’s World Cup semifinal between USA and Germany in 2015 and its capacity of 61,004 reached with Impact’s CONCACAF Champions League Final with Club América that same year.

For the regular season at the nearby Saputo, Impact attracts attendances of around 20,000, again close to capacity. The original 13,000-seat Saputo soccer stadium opened in 2008 at a cost of $17 million. 

Quebec’s government steered an additional $23 million in funding toward the facility to enable the Impact to make the expansion adjustments necessary for MLS. 

Stade Saputo features a natural grass field. Montreal’s professional and Academy teams train on a synthetic field bordering the stadium. 

Montréal fans occupy the Supporters’ Sector (131, 132) behind the West Goal, Tribune Ouest, and 114 behind the opposite Tribune Est. To one corner, nearest the Tribune Nord, visiting fans are allocated sector 112.

Transportation

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

The city’s métro system offers a convenient and relaxing commute to the Parc Olympique. Jump on the Green Line toward Honoré-Beaugrand from downtown stations and alight at Pie-IX or Viau for a short stroll to either stadium. A one-trip ticket costs CA$3.25 and the journey will take about 15 minutes.

Montreal also ranks as one of the world’s great biking cities with over 400 miles of cycling paths and lanes stretching well into the suburbs. Its Bixi bike system allows unlimited 30-minute rides for CA$5 per day, 24 hours a day from April to November.

Designated cycle lanes running along Boulevard René-Lévesque to Rue Notre-Dame and along Rue Rachel head north toward Parc Olympique from downtown. Bear in mind though that the ‘Mont’ in Montreal hints at rolling terrain that can be challenging on a heavy three-speed bike.

With such a convenient métro system and excellent cycle access too, it makes little sense to bring a car to the Parc Olympique area. If you must, there are almost 4,000 indoor parking spaces, mainly lining Avenue Pierre De Coubertin alongside the Stade Olympique but they come at a price of CA$20/day.

For the Saputo, parking zone P5 (320 spaces) is the nearest, address 3200 Viau.

Ticketing

When, where, how, and how much

Tickets are distributed online through Ticketpro (contact 1 866 908-9090). The club office is 514-328-3668.

For big matches at the Stade Olympique, the best seats are in the Bleus sections on the long sides, in the CA$100-CA$120 range. Verts (Green) and Bleus Ciels (Sky Blue) nearer the corners are CA$60-CA$75. General admission for Montréal supporters in sectors 101-108 behind one goal and 159 behind the other is CA$40. Note that there are also standing places at CA$30.

Visiting supporters are allocated a block of odd-numbered sections in one corner diagonally opposite the home end, 147-151, 257-263 and 369-377, with its own entrance.

Note that for regular matches at the Stade Olympique, prices drop to the same as for the Saputo. There, as well as online, tickets are usually available from the guichets on match days – but Impact was close to 20,801 capacity for most of 2016.

The best seats are the Bleus in the Tribunes Nord and Sud, CA$62-CA$82. Nearer the corner flags, in the Bleus Ciels, prices are CA$35. Hardcore Montréal fans pay CA$25 to occupy the supporters’ sections 131-132.

merchandise

Jerseys, souvenirs, and all kinds of gear

The Montréal Boutique store on the south side of Stade Saputo is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as well as on game days.

Replica jerseys cost about CA$100 with hats, scarves and iPhone covers retailing at about CA$25.

Where to Drink

Matchday beers at the stadium and downtown

Le Trèfle in the up-and-coming Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood offers a hospitable pregame drinking spot within a 15-minute walk of Parc Olympique. This Irish-themed bar carries an extensive range of Belgian beers as well as offerings from European microbrewers such as Denmark’s Mikkeller and Scotland’s BrewDog. HD screens broadcast sports.

Montreal’s Downtown area features numerous drinking options tucked away in the streets crossing Rue Sainte-Catherine. In the thick of things, 3am closing in the norm. Right on Sainte-C itself, Moose Bawr offers a rustic Canadian experience and fine choice of drinks. Its Terrasse fills with alfresco drinkers in summer.

Ziggy’s Pub is filled with Canadian hockey paraphernalia but couched in a more alternative setting than the standard sports bar. Close by, Sir Winston Churchill overlooks lively Crescent Street from its prime balcony space – elsewhere, DJs spin and sport is screened.

Further down Crescent Street, Hurley’s Irish Pub celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023. Regular live music, 19 beers on tap, TV sports and innumerable whiskeys all feature.

Alongside each other on Peel Street, Peel Pub and McLean’s Pub are awash with TV screens for match action. The first is a ‘bar sportif’ where students lay into pitchers of beer, the second dates to 1910, and echoes the legends of the rowdy, radio-era Rymark Tavern, and revered barman Ian McLean who took over the place in 1992.

Further afield in the gentrified Saint-Henri neighborhood is the Burgundy Lion. This traditional British pub carries the largest collection of whiskies in Quebec with over 400 labels and serves up pub grub with a French-Canadian twist. Foreign beers including Boddingtons, Newcastle Brown, Stella Artois and Sapporo feature on tap, as do sports on TV.

timeline

Following the local soccer scene
Parc Olympique/BernadettVidra

1911 The Province of Quebec Football Association formed in Montreal.

1961 Montreal Concordia takes part in the second International Soccer League tournament organized by American sports entrepreneur Bill Cox. The team compiles a respectable record of five wins, four draws and five defeats against European and South American opposition. Humberto Gambaro notches two goals in a notable 3-1 win over A.S. Monaco at Montreal’s Molson Stadium. Concordia also provides the only blemish on Dukla Prague’s otherwise perfect tournament record with a plucky draw against the Czechoslovakian league and cup champions.

1971 Montreal Olympique joins the North American Soccer League as one of three expansion teams alongside the New York Cosmos and Canadian rival the Toronto Metros. Olympique plays its games at the Autostade built for the Expo 67 World’s Fair. Montreal finishes bottom of the eight-team standings with four wins in 24 games.

1972 Scottish teenager Graeme Souness helps Montreal climb off the bottom of the NASL standings with two goals and two assists during a ten-game loan spell from Tottenham Hotspur. Souness is selected for the NASL All-Star Team although Olympique misses the playoffs again.

1973 The Olympique folds after a third straight year with significantly more losses than wins.

Stade Olympique/Bernadett Vidra

1976 Soccer’s potential in Montreal is underlined when 71,617 fans watch East Germany defeat Poland by 3-1 in the Olympic final at Stade Olympique.

1978 Montreal Castors wins Canada’s National Soccer League in the club’s third season. The Castors retains the title the following year before owner Tony Iammatteo folds the club after struggling to attract crowds above one thousand.

1981 Montreal regains an NASL franchise when the Philadelphia Fury is relocated northward to become Montreal Manic. Average crowds at Stade Olympique approach 24,000 as former New York Cosmos head coach Eddie Firmani leads the franchise to the playoff quarterfinals.

1983 The Manic ousts the New York Cosmos from the NASL playoffs before a semifinal defeat to Tulsa Roughnecks prevents a first all-Canadian Soccer Bowl game against the Toronto Blizzard. Tulsa beats Toronto 2-0 in the final. Montreal folds at the end of the year. President Roger Samson cites poor stadium and television deals as major reasons behind the franchise’s financial struggles.

1988 Professional soccer returns to the City of Saints as Montreal Supra enters the nationwide Canadian Soccer League for the tournament’s second season. The expansion side finishes last in the five-team Eastern Division with eight wins in 28 games.

Stade Olympique/Bernadett Vidra

1992 The Supra is dissolved at the end of what proves to be the CSL’s final season.

1993 Joey Saputo’s Montreal Impact begins play in the American Professional Soccer League with many former Supra players joining the new organization. Former Manic head coach Eddie Firmani leads the team as Montreal’s teenage defender Jason de Vos earns the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

1994 Jean Harbor’s goal gives Montreal Impact a 1-0 win over the Colorado Foxes in the American Professional Soccer League championship game watched by 8,169 fans at Montreal’s Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard.

1997 Montreal wins its third straight regular season title before being defeated in the end-of-season playoffs. Crowds settle at about the 5,000 mark.

2004 A record home crowd of 13,648 watches the Impact claim its second championship with a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in the United Soccer Leagues A-League final.

Stade Saputo/Bernadett Vidra

2008 Stade Saputo opens. Montreal Impact participates in the first edition of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament and qualifies from its opening group.

2009 Two goals from Cuban forward Eduardo Sebrango give the Impact a 2-0 win over Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. A crowd of 55,571 watches the game at Stade Olympique. Montreal extends its aggregate lead to 4-1 in Torreón before conceding four second-half goals, including two in stoppage time, to exit the tournament. A third league championship is secured with a 6-3 aggregate win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the USL final.

2011 Montreal leaves the USL to join the recreated North American Soccer League for one season.

2012 Montreal becomes the 19th franchise in Major League Soccer.

2021 Saputo changes the club badge and name from Impact to Club de Foot Montréal.

2022 Club de Foot Montréal becomes CF Montréal. Logo reverts to a similar one to pre-2021, with a fleur-de-lys design.