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Provincial money may decide fate of Montreal’s MLS dream

Despite what thousands of screaming 12-year-olds will tell you,Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence in Toronto was not the biggest soccer newsbeing made this weekend.

Despite what thousands of screaming 12-year-olds will tell you, Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence in Toronto was not the biggest soccer news being made this weekend.

Far be it from me to judge what constitutes proper soccer appreciation, but I’ll just say that I felt for the fathers on this day. How comfortable can it be for a soccer dad to stand next to his darling daughter when said darling daughter has “take it off C. Ronaldo” scrawled on her stomach?

As I said, soccer is just starting to approach the mainstream, so far be it for me to judge what fills the stands.

But for those who were not interested in seeing Ronaldo “take it off,” the weekend’s big news came when MLS commissioner Don Garber spoke to the media on possible expansion to Montreal.

He backed away from earlier statements in which he made it seem as though Montreal joining MLS in 2011 was a certainty, but stayed committed enough to the city to keep the tongues wagging.

“The next step for us is to work with them on trying to get public support to expand and renovate that stadium,” Garber said.

“Without that, we’re not going to be able to go (into Montreal).”

Just a week ago, Garber said Montreal would likely be the 19th team to join MLS and, with a clever choice of words, appeared to declare Canada would have a third team in MLS by 2011.

At best it was a vague statement. At worst, well, at worst sometimes people hear what they want to hear. Or, rather, people hear what Garber wants them to hear.

During the expansion process Garber had the habit of showing up in bid cities when they needed him the most and making outlandish statements like, “Ottawa is a favourite in the MLS race” and “Atlanta is a terrific soccer city.”

In both cases it put pressure on the municipalities to get their stadium affairs in order.

And it’s no different now. Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo is waiting on the Quebec provincial government to commit $25 million to a stadium expansion.

In the meantime, Garber teases back and forth between praise and ultimatum, but his words are meant to do nothing more than put pressure on la belle province to come through with the money.

If it does, Montreal will be on its way to MLS, likely in 2012.

If it doesn’t, then Montreal becomes the next Ottawa and MLS moves on to another city willing to put up the money. After all, soccer dad and daughter have to stand somewhere.

– Watch Ben Rycroft on the It’s Called Football show every Monday at metronews.ca; ben.rycroft@metronews.ca

 
 
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