Thursday, November 5, 2009
Amid all of the hullabaloo about the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact possibly playing in a brand new American second division next year, their former (and possibly future) league has let loose that it may be adding two more Canadian franchises to its ever-fluctuating fold, possibly as early as 2010.
The USL has indicated that interested investors from Edmonton and Ottawa may land teams in its First Division within the next two years, effectively replacing (or joining) the disgruntled Whitecaps and Impact as the Canadian flagbearers of USL-1.
Should Edmonton and Ottawa kick off next spring, and Vancouver and Montreal figure out their situation (USL or otherwise), the CSA will have little choice but to organize a five-team tourney to crown a Canadian club champion. And while I’m sure the long-term strategy was to eventually have more clubs of a certain level – the minimum standard being USL-1 level at the moment – involved in an expanded competition, I don’t think anyone could have fathomed the possibility of that happening by the third year.
Should all the pieces fall into place, TFC supporters groups can look forward to planning an in-province road trip next year in addition to their annual pilgrimage to Stade Saputo to collect three points.
Before anyone starts asking when the bus leaves for Ottawa, there are some other questions that need answering. Who is behind these potential expansion teams? Are they committed, deep-pocketed owners, or are they the same type of fly-by-the seat-of-your-pants operations that proved so disastrous the last time the USL expanded to Canada?
And what about on the field? Can Edmonton and Ottawa reasonably expect to put together a competitive side on six months’ notice? If indeed one or both of those teams kick off in 2010, they will find it nearly impossible to field a team to be competitive in USL-1, there’s simply not enough time to put together a technical staff and quality roster in such a short window. And a bad team would be would be a hard sell in markets with no real track record of supporting club soccer, especially with so many other attractive options for local fans to watch on TV, domestic and otherwise.
That’s not even mentioning the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. For my money the NCC is a calibre somewhere between USL-1 and MLS. If a team hastily thrown together finds it hard to succeed at the USL-1 level (and it will), it’ll find it nearly impossible to win in what is arguably the most hotly-contested domestic cup competition north of Mexico. For those fans still bemoaning a certain 6-1 scoreline as a blemish on the integrity of our beloved little tournament, imagine what two more teams at the level of the Trois-Rivières Attak will do for the credibility of the Voyageurs Cup.
For the good of the game in this country, let’s hope that the rumours of Edmonton and Ottawa joining USL-1 are true… for 2011. Canada needs more success stories in the club game, and diving into a turbulent league just because the opportunity has presented itself is not the way to write those stories.
Posted by Rudi Schuller