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MLS expansion creates a tale of three cities

One city still trying to find a way into the MLS.

One city still trying to find a way into the MLS. Another, already assured its spot, promising to keep its nose to the grindstone until it is in. And still another, lost in the soccer wilderness — unsure of where it wants to go.

Ottawa city council threw cold water on Eugene Melnyk’s plans to build a soccer-specific stadium Monday, calling their business plan “below expectations” and sending them back to the drawing board.

For Melnyk, it’s a massive blow. Despite not being included in the 2011 expansion, it was quietly being suggested that MLS commissioner Don Garber still favoured their bid, and if they could get a stadium deal done, they were a shoe-in for 2012 or 2013.

Melnyk will hold a press conference next week to address where they see their bid going. At this point, it’s going nowhere unless they pair their bid with Jeff Hunt and his CFL hopes.

One city that is going somewhere is Vancouver.

Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi told me they are raising the bar in their run-up to 2011.

“We want to repeat as champions in the USL-1 this year, win the Canadian Nutrilite Championship and make a deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League,” he said. Their USL-1 season starts this weekend and, frankly, they have the team to do all of that.

Montreal, meanwhile, has watched as rumours persist that George Gillett has put the Montreal Canadiens up for sale — a sign his financial troubles extend beyond his ownership of Liverpool FC. Gillett had been a major backer of the failed Montreal Impact MLS bid and, as some have suggested, the one who insisted they low-ball the expansion fee, a move that earned them a quick exit from the process.

With former USL-1 team Seattle now in the MLS, current USL-1 powerhouses Portland and Vancouver leaving soon, and Ottawa re-grouping, Montreal is looking very much the odd man out. Impact owner Joey Saputo needs to suck up his pride and get back on track — or risk getting left behind in the wilderness of Canadian soccer.

 
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