Ottawa Expansion Now a Rougher Ride?

BigSoccer is alive today as reports surfaced that Miami has given up its seat at the poker table for Major League Soccer Expansion.

That leaves four, as covered by both Dan Loney and Pack87Man (the latter is a blog every MLS fan should be reading, if you aren’t already; the former – you already read that). Those four being: Portland, Vancouver, Ottawa, and St. Louis. Joining Miami in the garage area and out of the race is Atlanta and Montreal.

Anyhow, Ottawa has been a bit of a unique situation in that there are different groups simultaneously trying to bring an MLS team and a Canadian Football League team to the city. Ottawa has done the CFL thing before, of course. Who can forget the Rough Riders (d. 1996) and the Renegades (suspended after four years).

Today, the CFL Board of Governors gave Ottawa six more months to work with the city to get a deal done. The league already has Ottawa as an expansion city for 2010, but that’s contingent on their being a stadium for them to play in. The article notes that the CFL and MLS stadium plans are in different areas, with the MLS plan being for a soccer-only facility, while the CFL folks have floated the idea of the CFL and MLS clubs sharing a renovated Frank Clair Stadium.

Frank Clair Stadium

Everything I’ve read, however, and the back-and-forth between Ottawa-MLS backer Eugene Melnyk and Ottawa-CFL backer Jeff Hunt’s group suggests that only one side is getting their way with regard to setting up shop in the city. It is in the hands of the City Council how the issue of one or both teams being born, as it were, is going to be worked out.

The question, of course, is how all of this affect Melnyk’s bid to bring MLS to Ottawa. Based on everything we’ve heard from MLS Commissioner Don Garber, the 2011 expansion sites are going to be picked before the 2009 season kicks off – and that’s less than a month away. If the city of Ottawa is committed to working 6 more months with the Hunt group to bring back the CFL; will that cloud of uncertainty over MLS’s possible future there eliminate their chances from being selected in this round of expansion?

Further down the line is the question of, after 2011 when the league gets to 18 teams, how quickly would MLS move toward further expansion, thus opening the possibility of Ottawa joining the league at a later date.

I think Ottawa-MLS makes sense (and I don’t say that to be negative toward the other three cities). Toronto has been a success in terms of support, and I think Ottawa would probably be the same. And you’d end up with a bitter rivalry down the road. I just hope today’s little bit of news doesn’t turn into a big issue for MLS when its making the final decision in the very near future about who jumps aboard for 2011.


4 thoughts on “Ottawa Expansion Now a Rougher Ride?

  1. The thing I question with Ottawa is how much they truly want to have an MLS team… any thoughts on this?

    Also, how is the soccer fan base there? Is this the type of market that is going to sell out a 20,000 seat stadium regularly? Is Ottawa a city with loyal fans, or will the attendance fade when the team does poorly? Is there a buzz in the city regarding the possibility of a pro soccer team being in the city?

    Another potential issue I see with Ottawa is that if they get a team and Montreal brings a team in to the league soon… does that oversaturate the market along the St. Lawrence river area? You’ll have Ottawa and Montreal within a fairly close proximity to each other. So if Ottawa gets a team, does that put a damper on Montreal as a potential candidate for future expansion?

    Often I wish we could have two 20 team leagues, and bring in numerous other cities and have a two tier system… but honestly, we may not see that for 50 years (if then).

  2. I’ve never been to Ottawa, so maybe what I’m going to say is wrong: from everything I’ve read and everything I’ve been told, Ottawa is a very very different sort of city than Toronto. I don’t think it’s a given that a team would be well supported there at all; in fact, I’d be kinda surprised if it was. It would be helpful if there was first-hand info from Ottawa about support for a team at the grassroots/general public level.

  3. I seem to get the same impression that a team wouldn’t be well supported there. Places like Seattle and Philadelphia had a buzz and supporter groups already in place. I haven’t heard about anything that is close to any of that with Ottawa.

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