Thursday, July 26, 2007

Major League Soccer Coming to Montreal?

That image above is a rendering of Stade Saputo which is currently under construction in Montreal for the USL team, the Montreal Impact. It'll hold up to 18,000 fans when it's done and is next to Olympic Stadium. You can even watch a 3D virtual tour of the stadium here.

I don't follow the USL leagues (I do have my limits) but I'm excited about this stadium now due to this recent article. The article is in French but here's a rough translation from a poster on BigSoccer:

"The new stadium to be built, which should be ready in 2008 and will host up to 18,000 fans, was an important part in the decision of Richard Legendre to accept the offer."

"Saputo and Legendre did not hide their interest to bring the Montreal Impact in MLS ranks in which David Beckham will now play for the Los Angeles Galaxy."

"Saputo repeated several time that he had changed his mind about MLS and that every doors were open now that the league was leaving individual team owners act more freely instead of trying to administer everything from the league's offices. However, Saputo reminded people that the Toronto franchise owned exclusive right over the Canadian market for the next 3 years."

And the rest of the article they talk of how amazed they were that 40,000 people showed up at Olympic Stadium for the U-20 chanmpionship for games like Congo vs Mexico.
Here's why this idea has some credibility:
  • Toronto FC was an expansion team in MLS this year and has been a runaway success. Every game is a sellout (20,000 fans) with another 3,000 fans on the waiting list for season tickets. Plus, the fans have been wonderfully rabid creating lots of fun atmosphere with their singing and chanting.
  • Toronto FC holds the exclusive rights to the Canadian market until Dec 31, 2009. After that, Montreal could get a team.
  • Montreal Impact already draw about 13,000 fans a game for their USL games. That's better than some MLS teams. Combined with the large crowds for the U-20 World Cup, it shows a strong fan base for soccer in Montreal.
  • Lino Saputo is worth about $2.4 billion. So, he has plenty of cash to cover the $30M expansion fee and whatever upgrades would be need to bring the stadium above up from "Texas High School Quality" to "MLS Quality".
  • MLS has stated that they'd like to grow to 16 teams by 2010 which means adding two more teams to the existing thirteen teams and San Jose which starts next year.
Due to the long drive, I probably wouldn't be a season ticket holder for a Montreal MLS team but I'd certainly make it up for a number of games and gladly shift my alliance from Red Bulls to the Montreal team.

So, here's to hoping for 2010.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Montréal is the perfect market for MLS. Soccer is the world's most international sport, and Montréal is one of the most international cities in North America. Furthermore, as has been duly noted in the article, the sport is very much appreciated and followed in Montréal.

It is dissappointing to see that MLS thinks that Philadelphia makes for a better 16th team than Montréal. Such is the problem of competing in a US-based league. After Seattle was awarded the 15th team, the 16th really should have gone to Montréal.

Part of the problem of course is the exclusivity given to Toronto until 2009. I cannot figure out what the reasoning behind that was. There is no doubt that Toronto FC has been an overwhelming success, but don't think for a minute that Montrealers would really support a Toronto team!

Allez Montréal !

Anonymous said...

The reason for Toronto's exclusivity clause has to do with MLS roster restrictions. At the time, much of the Toronto FC roster had to be comprised of Canadian players. If we had one or two more Canadian teams operating at the same time with those restrictions, there would be definitely be a problem trying to find enough Canadians to fill the rosters of all two or three clubs.

Luckily, MLS has changed the restrictions for domestic players and Toronto FC is more than willing to waive the exclusivity clause if Montreal or Vancouver wanted in for 2009