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MLS Expansion: Montreal Still Alive?

The CONCACAF Champions League returns next week and in one of the more appetizing matchups, the Impact de Montreal of USL faces Mexico’s Santos Laguna. Montreal is one of three members of US based leagues to advance to the quarterfinal stage (the Houston Dynamo and the Puerto Rico Islanders are the others).

The Champions League may not have yet developed a following among some MLS fans  including those whose teams took the tournament to be a set of friendlies and were eliminated early, but in Montreal it is a very big deal. Radio Canada and MLS Rumors are reporting that 43,000 tickets have already been sold for Montreal’s home leg of the Quarterfinals, and arrangements are being made to add capacity to Olympic Stadium should the game sell out.

The match will be held at Olympic Stadium instead of Stade Saputo, the usual home ground of the Impact. The advance ticket sales must give pause to MLS officials whose demands placed on potential expansion bidders forced Montreal’s bid to be eliminated. The Saputo’s, the owners of the Impact along with George Gillett, co-owner of Liverpool, and partner in Montreal’s MLS bid, felt the $40 million price tag for a new MLS franchise (or in this case promoting a successful USL team to MLS) should include stadium upgrade costs. Stade Saputo, which is a new state of the art facility with a grass pitch seats under 15,000 fans and thus must be upgraded to be considered a permanent MLS home ground.

A source confirmed to me Monday, that Montreal’s ownership group has not ruled out an eventual move to MLS, but that the requirements to submit an expansion bid to the league must be changed. The big question will be this: after the Impact put on a show next week and draw the type of crowd current MLS clubs can only dream about for a CONCACAF match, will MLS and Montreal come to some agreement?  Could this also be the mysterious cause of the delay in revealing the expansion winner for 2011?

We will preview each of the quarterfinal cup ties involving MLS or USL sides next week.

This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, MLS Expansion, Montreal Impact. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

22 Responses to MLS Expansion: Montreal Still Alive?

  1. C Dykstra says:

    I’d think the mysterious delay is the task force in Portland and the negotiations in Ottawa. MLS isn’t going to announce Vancouver and Miami prematurely enough to turn down public subsidies. I think Montreal is out this round barring some horrible collapse of the Miami and Vancouver bids (very unlikely).

  2. Joey Clams says:

    43,000 divided by two = let’s see, 21,500. Hmmm.

    I’m sure that Toronto could sell as many tickets for a big game. Divide that by two. 21,500.

    2+2= 4. Plus Ottawa. That’s five. Plus Vancouver. That’s six. Plus the Albertans. That’s eight.

    Why is Montreal even bothering with MLS? And why do fans in Canada’s big four cities have no enthusiasm for a conventional domestic competition? My guess is that a Toronto FC – Winnipeg FC game wouldn’t have the nationalist angst that makes every Toronto game a Canadian version of US-Mexico.

    They don’t wan t their own cake in Canada but they insist on having and eating someone else’s.

  3. MLS Rumors says:

    For the background to this rumor which originally was sent to us yesterday go here:

    http://www.mls-rumors.net/2009/02/expansion-montreal-still-in-mix-so-says.html

  4. Lars says:

    Excuse me?

    Toronto FC is helping keep the MLS alive, they’re the second most valuable team and have unbelievable support. The Impact (out of Montreal) and Toronto FC have a huge rivalry created in the past two years.

    Without the Canadian, MLS is a league with perennial money losers minus LA. Putting a team in Montreal for the MLS would boost the league further by bringing the kind of rivalry that is not seen anywhere else in the MLS. Montreal Impact fans and TFC fans rabidly hate each other. There is no loss in bringing Canadian teams into the league.

    Of course, you’re probably one of those people who actually thinks the MLS is about developing American talent. Which it’s not. All sports leagues operate on the premise of making money. The teams will go where money can be made. That’s Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, places with strong soccer fanbases and places which will rake in cash more than American markets with twice the population.

    The Ottawa team should be an after thought though, as Ottawa can’t even support a CFL team, or any team, other than an NHL team.

  5. C Dykstra says:

    You all hopefully realize that I could have made up this story, sent that site that email, and they’d have published it just the same. Maybe there is an informant but many times people send that site all kind of rumors just to laugh at them publishing it. I hope it wasn’t the impetus for the story here.

  6. Joey Clams says:

    Now Lars presumes to educate us about MLS’ mission.

    And, by the way, the sort of rivalry that you envision -with its enmity and cultural basis – is a toxic proposition in the US sporting culture.

    We don’t want it here. I want no part of watching Canada’s internal ethnic politics grabbing a piece of the MLS stage. Dismiss us as lacking in passion. But that’s our culture. Our league will thrive in time.

    I don’t want your teams in our league. Only American teams should be allowed to compete for the pro soccer championship of the United States. That stated desire is far from unconventional.

    I prefer the vapidity and languor of of an MLS game in a suburban US stadium to the affected intensity and sad identity politics of Toronto.

  7. Lars says:

    First of all, you’re clueless.

    Montreal is a federalist city. It has nothing to do with French or English, considering over half the population of Montreal speaks English. It has nothing to do with politics, its the type of rivalry which is seen between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in any league which they have sports teams. Toxic rivalry haha. You know nothing of Canada if you think its federalist vs seperatist. Montreal is not Quebec City. In fact, Montreal routinely votes en masse for the Liberals. Guess who also vote en masse for the Liberals? Surprise surprise, Toronto.

    Go home. You know nothing of our country. Ethnic politics haha. Americans have more ethnic problems than we do.

    Just as a further note. Major League Soccer isn’t called American League Soccer…Nowhere does it belong solely to Americans. Kthnxbye…

  8. Joey Clams says:

    Actually, I know quite a lot about your country. And I do know that Montreal has always had a large Anglophone, ethnic English and even ethnic Irish community.

    I, however, am not the one making the noise about how intense the ethnic rivalry will be.

    The United States is much further along in its development of cultural consensus than Canada. We are, however, going through a period of assimilating a group of people that is larger than Canada’s entire population. Those growing pains often manifest themselves within the realm of soccer.

    So, you deny Canadian ethnic tension. I acknowledge it in the United States.

    One way or the other, you don’t see Carlos Bocanegra fantasizing about playing for an independent Hispanic team, do you?

    Yet we always hear about how deep an independent Quebec hockey team would be in goal.

    By the way, as a youth, I once served Rene Levesque at a restaurant near his summer home.

  9. patrick norton says:

    Wow, what a bunch no ninnies in the comments, fighting imaginary battles.
    Quick all canadian teams out of NHL, NBA, MLB!!!

    The point here is Montreal was a great soccer town 20 years ago with the Manic, have shown exceptional ownership for over a dozen years, are owned by a rich family (of course, telling a football fan that you might be co-owned by Gillett is like telling then you have the herp. football fans know how Liverpool fans feel about Gillett) and have access to not one but two stadiums.

    Having a team from the USL have 50,000 people for a Champions League game is as funny to me as having to USL teams in the tournament while only one MLS is left.

    I still think that we need to join all these leagues and have promotions.
    Teams from the USL that want to go up if they finish at the top should go up and teams in the MLS who keep sucking (hey Toronto) should go back in a lower division and regroup.

  10. Joey Clams says:

    But, Patrick, don’t you see the difference?

    Soccer in not an organic North American game. It also has a tradition of independent national leagues and protective governing body oversight. Fans are territorial, jealous and more mindful of local identity, right?

    Beyond that, soccer is, in many ways, an upper-middle class game in the US. As such, MLS’ desire to denationalize will be seen, rather rightly, as a rather elitist move.

    And by the way, if you take the NHL out of the equation, between NBA, MLB and NFL there are TWO Canadian teams.

    Let’s not get carried away.

  11. tony says:

    montreal and vancouver joining mls is inevitable, if not this round then the next mls is most likely going to be a 22 team plus in the near future. as for this round I think miami and there waiting for portland, to get final approval for stadium cash.

  12. Lars says:

    Haha, its funny you bring up an Independent Quebec hockey team, because that idea has been decisively rejected by the Quebec populace. The people who keep bringing it up are the Parti Quebecois and the Bloc. Both of which suffer significant drops in support when its brought up, especially after Canadian hockey players from Quebec give a decisive no to that idea.

    I don’t deny the tensions, I openly acknowledged they exist with my comments about federalist vs seperatist, but Montreal is decisively federalist, due to its wealthy, anglo canadian populace and the large number of immigrants. There’s a reason why “the wealth and the ethnics” cost Parizeau the referendum in 95. Guess where they all live, Montreal. Once again, Montreal is not Quebec City.

    The Toronto-Montreal rivalry is based on a past rivalry over being the largest city in Canada, extended to hockey and soccer. This is not ethnic tension…which you claim it is.

  13. Joey Clams says:

    Lars:

    Please see the comments on MLSR. I won’t regard them as typical or even representative. But I don’t doubt that they’ll find voice in a packed MLS venue.

    And, well, they do support my claim. Such expressions are practically forbidden in the US, though it’s obvious that we don’t have anything that can be considered analagous to Quebec.

  14. Screw Miami says:

    I love that everyone is counting St. Louis out – Garber met with them and a new investor last week. Just wait.

    http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/sow/news?slug=goal_garber_barcelonamiami_mls&prov=goal&type=lgns

  15. mighty! says:

    joey clams said “Only American teams should be allowed to compete for the pro soccer championship of the United States. ”

    that is what the Open Cup is for…..

    MLS Cup is for the champion of the MLS…

  16. Joey Clams says:

    Actually, mighty, you’re wrong.

    The US Cup determines the champion of knock-out format soccer. What distinguishes it is not that it’s nation / federation specific but format specific.

    The World Cup even acknowledges the reality of dual formats by employing them both: the first round is akin to league play, the latter rounds are knock-out play.

    Concacaf and Fifa regard the MLS champion as the champion of US soccer. And as it stands, only US teams can qualify for international play through MLS honors.

    Think about it: if the MLS Cup champ were not the champ of US soccer, why does represent the US in international competitions as the champion of US soccer?

  17. Joey Clams says:

    I should have written…

    What distinguishes it is not only that it’s nation / federation specific but format specific.

  18. mighty! says:

    the Open Cup winner (and supporter shield) winner does represent the US in international competitions, and most of the time they are not MLS Cup winners…

  19. Joey Clams says:

    Mighty, they represent IN ADDITION to the MLS cup winner.

  20. mighty! says:

    re JoeOyster
    are you serious?

    btw… an blog that quotes mls rumors HAS to be suspect……..

  21. Joey Clams says:

    mighty, Concacaf organizes their championship by alloting spots to countries, not to leagues. The federation in each country then determines how it will fill the allotments.

  22. mighty! says:

    REALLY????

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