Canadian NASL Expansion Imminent

Reports indicate Ottawa might be joined by another Canadian team in the NASL in 2014
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, April 18, 2013

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Yesterday the Quebec-based news site SoccerPlus published the following on its Twitter profile: ”#NASL: Word is out another Canadian city (other than @OttawaFuryFC) is very close to join the American D2 as soon as 2014.”

Another professional soccer team in Canada is obviously exciting news. Nevertheless, the day became even more exciting when Steve Sandor at the11.ca reported that a Calgary group is targeting a NASL expansion team in 2016 or 2017, and has a hired a member of the FC Edmonton front office to lead this effort.

The only way I read this, the expansion SoccerPlus is referring to can’t be Calgary. But if SoccerPlus is right and there's a new Canadian club, and if Calgary is successful, Canada would go from 4 to 7 professional teams in a very short time span.

On the plus side, having more teams means more soccer for Canadians. It’ll bring communities together around the sport and inspire kids to play professionally. It will also mean more professional academies giving players a better opportunity to develop and chances for those who aren’t ready for MLS or foreign leagues.

One aspect that can arouse certain scepticism is that even without Calgary, it is a very rapid expansion of professional teams in the country, and one can wonder if the talent pool is deep enough. What is encouraging, however, is that most of FC Edmonton’s Canadian players are indeed from Edmonton and Alberta.

It is all speculation, but many of these players might not have chosen a professional soccer career had they not had a pro soccer team in their hometown or province. Rather than a big fight over the existing Canadian players, I hope to see that the increase in teams will lead to a widening of the player pool as it inspires Canadian players in the Canada Interuniversity Sport or the NCAA, to give pro soccer in Canada a try.

It would also give a player such as Matt Stinson a chance to rebound from being cut at the MLS level and rebuild his career in a safe environment at home, rather than being a lottery ticket for some obscure lower league club in Scandinavia.

Sandor pointed out in his article that Calgary not only has a strong appetite for sports, but also has plenty of disposable income to spend to make it a great place to put a new team. And if this isn’t the team joining Ottawa in 2014, this shows the potential of the game of soccer in this country.

The NASL is an American league and as such doesn’t have a vested interested in soccer in Canada. It does, however, have an interest in well-run, successful teams to build a stable league.

If the NASL would indeed be ready to have 3 or 4 Canadian teams within the near future, it shows that there are investors who believe in Canadian soccer and are ready to put their money where their mouths are, and that is a thing fans of Canadian soccer can be happy about.

Henrik LONNE

Nationality:
Denmark
College:
Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.
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