Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Ottawa soccer question: Conclusion

Part four of four of the Ottawa soccer question below the jump

Can Ottawa win?

Having looked at the Ottawa bid from several different angles, there is only one thing left to discuss – does it matter? Is it possible that Ottawa might win this thing?


As wishy-washy as that answer might seem it’s about a hundred times more hopeful than the answer you would have go to the question six months ago. Then, to say it like the kids today do, you would have got a solid ROFLMFAO. Or something like that anyway. It didn’t seem at all likely.

However, since then close observers of the process have become more aware of Ottawa’s strengths and, equally important, several other bids have taken a step back.

Montreal losing its game of chicken with MLS was the single most important factor that put Ottawa’s bid in play in a serious way. Located just 90 minutes west of Montreal, and with the potential to tap into the French Canadian market, and an obvious dance partner for Toronto, Ottawa represented a great plan B for MLS in its Canadian planning.

Ah, Canada. Canuck-ness is another issue that might play to Ottawa’s advantage. Although it is difficult to figure out what Don Garber actual wants from one day to the next it does seem like the league wants to increase its footprint in Canada. Sure he will talk about wanting to take care of the U.S. market as well, but why not do both? If further expansion into Canada is desired then Ottawa’s bid probably comes down to an either or with Vancouver as opposed to a competition with the other four cities (more on that in a minute).

Note that the competition is down to four. Atlanta, never really a factor, dropped out last month thus taking another obstacle out of Ottawa’s way. Some people are suggesting that St. Louis’ bid is all but dead. Garber said as much last month when he admitted that the league wasn’t happy with Jeff Cooper’s wallet. No money, no team.

So now we’re down to Ottawa and three others – Vancouver, which we’ve touched on, Miami and Portland.

Miami is in. No one will come out and say it just yet, but Barca’s money has eliminated any and all objections to giving South Florida another try. Then there is Portland.

There is a lot to like about the Portland bid – it’s a wonderful soccer market in a beautiful (and funky) city. But, it’s got stadium issues. They might figure them out. They might not. Most of the city’s attention the last little while was figuring out what to do with its mayor, who evidently has a thing for 18-year-old teenage boys (not that there is anything wrong with that. Except there was because the kid was an intern. It’s a little messy up there right now). The city has a task force running that is going to make recommendations on whether to fund a two part plan that will see a new AAA baseball park built and the existing ball yard converted into a soccer specific venue. There are a lot of ifs in Portland. Although it would be foolhardy to eliminate it from the conversation just yet, it’s also hard to suggest that its chances are improving.

Which brings us back to the Ottawa versus Vancouver question. Of the two Canadian cities, which has the better chance at making the jump? Van City has a lot to like. As its fans like to remind us ignorant easterners the Whitecaps were one of the shining lights of the NASL (they were one of the few teams that made it all the way to the end in 1984 and were Soccer Bowl champions in 1979). The current ‘Caps are USL-1 powers and the Southsiders form the core of passionate support. There is little doubt Vancouver would make a wonderful addition to MLS. And if they had a real stadium plan they could likely start to sell the season tickets.

But they don’t. Neither does Ottawa yet. But if the latter situation changes, then it stops being hard to imagine the capital jumping ahead in the MLS race. Actually, if Ottawa gets approval for its soccer specific stadium plan it moves right on up to the front of the queue.

So, to answer the question that started this piece...does Ottawa actually have a shot at this?

You betcha. Crazier things have happened. Seriously.

The one troublesome issue with the current situation is that Ottawa city council has indicated that it won’t be making a decision about the stadiums until April at the earliest. MLS has said in the past that it wanted to have the expansion issue dealt with by March 19 (the 2009 season opener). Although the league has waffled on that point (SHOCKING!), it’s not ideal that Ottawa is putting itself in that situation.

Unless Capital City FC has reason to believe that MLS might name one or two teams for 2013 as well...It is, after all, difficult to turn down $160 million.

We had so many great bids that we couldn’t decide. All four of these cities will make wonderful additions to MLS...

Ottawa in ’13. Remember where you heard it first.

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