CF Montréal 2023–24

Bringing the hype for CF Montréal 2023–24

“It’s the 28th season for MLS and a fresh start for CF Montréal. If you weren’t excited already, here’s all the hype and essential info you need.”

It’s the 28th season of the MLS and the yearly start for the CF Montréal season. If you were not excited already, I will bring the hype and dispense some important information to get you up to speed.

The Monteal football landscape has changed and we need to take a minute to recap just what has happened since the crazy months of November and December have now passed us by. CF Montreal’s DNA has changed. On Jan. 1, 2023, super talent Ismaël Koné was transferred to English second division Club Watford FC for a cool $9-million. 20-year-old Koné, born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, grew up in Montreal. After playing in St-Laurent and then joining CFM’s Academy for a few months, he signed his first professional contract in 2021.

In 2022, he played 26 games, 18 as a starter, logging 1,587 minutes of play, collecting two goals and five assists in the MLS regular season. He also started both of Montreal’s 2022 MLS Cup playoff games and scored the game-winning goal against Orlando City SC. In the CONCACAF Champions League, Koné also scored against Santos Laguna on Feb. 23, his first professional goal. Koné received his first international call-up with the Canadian Men’s National Team during the last World Cup qualifying phase in March and he was with Canada at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this past November where he played all three group stage games as a substitute. Koné is a future star.

At the same time, CFM transferred Canadian fullback Alistair Johnston to Celtic FC, the reigning Scottish Premier League champions, (you are very welcome Sir Rod Stewart!). Johnston, 24, was acquired from Nashville SC in 2021, in exchange for $1-million in general allocation money. In 2022, he scored four goals and added five assists in 33 MLS regular season games. At the end of the year, Cult MTL was there when Johnston was named the Club’s Defensive Player of the Year. Like Koné, Alistair played for Team Canada at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He played 90 minutes in all three games during the group stage. He was sold to Celtic FC for $5-million. (Those dollars must have bought some nice holiday gifts in December.)

Montreal hired new coach Hernan Losada during this rebuild. The 40-year-old from Argentina was head coach of D.C. United and a Belgian Club Beerschot V.A. in Europe. Coach Losada had a good playing career that lasted from 2003–18, with 101 goals and 55 assists in 370 games.  He played for Independiente in Argentina before moving to Europe, where he played most of his career in Belgium.

The core of the CFM from last year are still in the house representing Montreal. Some fan favourites, to name a few, are Victor Wanyama, Rudy Camacho, Samuel Piette, Mathieu Choiniere, Kamal Miller, Mason Toye and Goal Initiative Foundation Ambassador Joel Waterman. They’ll be looking to go further and do better in this year’s MLS playoffs.

The way we view MLS has changed this year.

Apple is now paying $250-million annually to showcase the action exclusively. MLS struck the deal with Apple to make it easier to access all the matches across all iOS devices so you can watch anywhere, anytime. Apple has also promised to help accelerate the growth of MLS and strengthen the connections between supporters and their clubs with personalized experiences. Once a fan selects their favourite club, their matches will automatically appear in the Up Next watchlist on the Apple TV app so they will never miss a moment. Fans can also opt into receiving a notification on iPhone and iPad whenever their match is about to start. You will still be able to catch a few matches on TSN/RDS, like the season opener vs. Inter Miami that went down on Feb 25th. (Montreal lost the match, 2–0.)

The local opening match will take place at the Olympic Stadium on March 18.

Last night’s team season launch at Club Soda in Montreal

All CFM matches can also be seen at Pub Burgundy Lion, home of football in Montreal (which, full disclosure, I also co-founded).

Now you must also be made aware that CFM, along with all other MLS clubs, are part of a very exciting new North American wide competition called the Leagues Cup. 47 football clubs will take part in this football super party, 18 from LIGA MX in Mexico and 29 from MLS. CFM will participate in this officially sanctioned CONCACAF competition where 15 groups will face off in a World Cup style tournament that will qualify three clubs for the 2024 CONCACAF Champions League. The Leagues Cup will take place from July 21 to Aug. 19, 2023. Montreal will be facing D.C. United and Pumas from LIGA MX, a club based in Mexico City. Founded in 1954, Pumas has won the Mexican Championship seven times. 

The groups in this tournament were divided up into four regions, West, Central, South and East. Every team will play two matches in the group stage, with the top two teams from each group, decided by points, advancing to the knockout stage round of 32. No matches in the Leagues Cup group stage will end in a tie. If a game is tied after 90 minutes, the game will proceed to a penalty shoot-out. (GET RIGHT TO THE POINT I say, could not be happier with this set-up!)

Montreal’s Leagues Cup group looks like this: 

  • East 1: Philadelphia Union (#1 MLS), Club Tijuana (#15 LIGA MX), Querétaro (#17 LIGA MX)
  • East 2: CF Montréal (#2 MLS), Pumas (#14 LIGA MX), D.C. United (#27 MLS)
  • East 3: New York City FC (#4 MLS), Atlas (#12 LIGA MX), Toronto FC (#26 MLS)
  • East 4: New York Red Bulls (#5 MLS), Atlético de San Luis (#11 LIGA MX), New England Revolution (#19 MLS)

I am excited and hopeful that this tournament will create a whole new level of fan in North America, much like the mid-year World Cup created this past November in Qatar.

Now let’s talk shirts & shorts. MLS and Adidas have agreed to a multiyear extension of their current partnership. The deal was announced days before MLS kicked off at the end of February and is valued at $830-million. The relationship will continue until 2030 and yes, this deal represents Adidas’s largest-ever investment in North American soccer. On the merch front, clubs have gone all out with special edition kits and collaborations that we will dig into later this month.

Montreal is still missing its new look and rebranded home kit. Therefore, this year’s CFM start to the season will be in last year’s away kit with the new logo. Let’s get ready for the football roller-coaster ride that we all love and loathe at the same time.

I want to say how much I, GOAL INITIATIVES FOUNDATION and the city of Montreal will miss Kei Kamera and wish him and his family the best in his next chapter. GOAL INITIATIVES FOUNDATION will stay committed to what we have promised, in terms of raising funds to support the very important work Kei and Heart Shaped Hands are doing in Africa in this year’s fundraising endeavours.

“There is no pressure when you are making a dream come true.”


Check out The 1st Half podcast (about soccer and football culture in Montreal and beyond) here.

This article was originally published in the March 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

For more Montreal sports coverage, please visit our Sports section.