Growth good, but plan first - Metro US

Growth good, but plan first

Canada’s soccer landscape is going to look drastically different in just a few years time — whether it’s a smouldering mess of a crater or a solid foundation for the future will depend on how the changes to come are managed.

Yesterday, Bob Young, owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Carolina Railhawks of the North American Soccer League, announced he was formally tabling an application to bring an NASL expansion team to Hamilton.

For a present NASL owner and someone with significant sway within the group, the announcement is really nothing more than a formality and I’m told approval should come by the end of the year.

What was of interest, and somewhat of a concern, was Young used the opportunity to pitch the Pan Am games (coming to Ontario in 2015) to make soccer the official sport of its new stadium during the games.

Problem is, there is no new stadium yet and the situation there is far more muddled than it was even six months ago.

With the city and Young at odds over everything from funding to location, the olive branch to Pan Am is, to put it bluntly, putting their cap out.

They need the Pan Am money to make their NASL bid work but with no guarantee on that return, Hamilton could easily find itself with a franchise awarded even before it has its stadium issues sorted.

Similarly, as I reported in March, the NASL is actively seeking expansion into several other Canadian cities, including Ottawa.

The capital city now has two suitors chasing that spot.

The first is John Pugh, the owner of the Ottawa Fury — a local Premier Development League team — whose proposal lists 2013 as its entry date.

The other is Neil Malhotra, a local developer, who is targeting 2012 for an arrival.

Sources tell me NASL is once again looking to pull the trigger quickly and a decision will come in early 2011. Even more than the Hamilton stadium situation, both seem awfully fast.

For those of us who baked on the empty open plain that was Canadian soccer in the 1990s, the thought of expansion is exciting — sexy even.

But a sharp smack upside the head is needed for anyone already dreaming up a six-team battle for the Canadian championship.

Don’t put the cart before the horse and all that. Hell, shoot the horse and toss the cart in the ditch if it means proper planning will be done.

In no uncertain terms, the NASL should not push these applications through just because it can — otherwise, without the proper vetting, we’re going to end up right back where we were — on that vast, empty plain.

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