I guess some would look at this as a continuation of the war of press releases between the United Soccer Leagues and the Team Owners Association, but nonetheless it’s still news.
According to the press release the USL First Division will move forward next year without the member clubs of the TOA, though Tampa seems to be on-board with the USL despite flirting with TOA over the last few months. The one thing that sticks out to me is the inclusion of Edmonton. Some of you may remember when the Aviators played in the old A-League, the ownership had — whimsically — expected crowds in excess of 10,000 but ended up getting crowds of around 2,500. A lot of that had to do with the venue, the cavernous Commonwealth Stadium, which was only available to the club on three weekends because the CFL’s Eskimos — rightfully — had priority scheduling. Eventually the owners simply walked away from the thing and dropped it in the USL’s lap, the USL ended up running it on a shoestring budget — even by their standards — as the renamed “Edmonton FC” as the owner’s took the name with the — good luck having any success with it in the future — and played out the season at a much smaller stadium in Edmonton, where attendance actually managed to improve. Though some polka dance-offs in Medicine Hat probably outdrew the Aviators in truth.
This isn’t a slight at Edmonton, it’s actually a decent soccer city, but following a failure that spectacular it gives you the impression that the USL was pretty hard-pressed to replace Vancouver as a presence in Western Canada.
Earlier we reported on the expansion to Ottawa. It’s really hard to see anything wrong with expansion to Ottawa, it’s a good location for the USL and even though some fans in the Canadian capital had designs on Major League Soccer, that’s not going to happen. They could end up having a good rivalry with Rochester, and the USL is going to miss the passion that the Rochester-Montreal rivalry brought to the league.
One can only assume that Baltimore is represented by Crystal Palace USA, there has been a lot of talk about them getting a stadium in Baltimore finally after playing in the County and out at Navy for a few years. They’re a strong team, and Baltimore is a good soccer city which would benefit the USL in many ways.
This is the first I’ve heard of a team in Detroit unless it’s the Michigan Bucks, a long-time citidel of the PDL. It’s an interesting move, and again could form a rivalry with Ottawa.
I do see this as good news for soccer in North America. The bickering between the USL and TOA has really left me a bit disillusioned with the lower league game here, but more opportunities for young players to get competitive matches is a good thing, particularly for Canada where professional opportunities are very much at a premium. That said, the USL isn’t much better than the K3 as-far-as expansion goes, so we’ll just have to wait and see. If the bickering continues, we’re certainly in for an eventful winter.
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