Joey Saputo recently went on record saying that "Montreal's entry into MLS is no longer a question of if, but when." Vancouver already has a guaranteed spot in the 2011 MLS season. Toronto is currently the home to a financially successful MLS team for a third season. Eugene Melnyk has been quoted as saying that getting an MLS team to Ottawa is "a no-brainer". Most recently Edmonton has been throwing around the idea of an MLS bid.
The idea of whether or not the MLS is the best way forward for Canadian clubs to develop is up for debate, but what is not up for debate is that the MLS is the future of the sport in this country. The MLS is bringing in the money, is catching audiences from across Canada, and is "the only league" in many people's eyes.
You could go on debating the quality of the MLS compared to the USL for hours, and believe me its been done. The simple fact is for Canadian teams to gain the national recognition they need from a mainstream audience they need to be competing in the MLS. The USL just doesn't have the exposure and as long as the MLS continues to maintain its status as the top league financially the USL will always be a second option to the MLS.
With all that in mind getting as many Canadian clubs into the league has to be the top priority. With Toronto and Vancouver already there the obvious next step is Montreal.
For a USL team Montreal has a solid fan base getting a sell out of over 12,000 out to their home opener last weekend and of course bringing 55,000 people out to the Big O for a CONCACAF Champions League game. The fans want the MLS, the organization is ready to make the jump and the only thing that stopped them in their 2011 bid was Joey Saputo's arrogance, refusing to pay the $40 million entry fee.
What needs to happen in order to get Montreal to the MLS is to get back on commissioner Don Garber's good side and for Joey Saputo to get off his high horse. According to Saputo these things are going well, they are in talks with MLS and a franchise looks inevitable in the near future.
The next prospective site is Ottawa. I think for Ottawa it's a case of "If you build it they will come". Getting an agreement with the city to build a 20-30,000 seat soccer specific stadium in downtown Ottawa is the only way this bid is going to get going. Melnyk is convinced that building a stadium near the Scotiabank Place (home to the Ottawa Senators) would work, but I doubt the city would allow this considering the mess that the location of the Scotiabank Place created.
Garber has said he speaks very highly of Ottawa and if a viable stadium plan is in place I think an MLS team in Ottawa is the future.
Edmonton Oilers owner, Daryl Katz is the newest billionaire to consider the MLS north of the 49th. Although at the moment he is just considering, The Edmonton audience has shown the interest in soccer is there time and time again. People point to poor men's national team attendances, but the U-19 Women's World Cup drew excellent crowds as did an L.A. Galaxy - Vancouver Whitecaps friendly. With relatively little advertising for these games these attendances are all the more impressive.
Although Commonwealth Stadium isn't really an option, because of its enormous size so a new soccer specific stadium would have to be built in Edmonton to accommodate an MLS franchise.
Getting Canadian clubs into the MLS will help the sport in this country more than anything else could right now and making sure this happens should be these club's number one priority.
[Cross-posted to The Canadian Stretford End]
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