Looks more and more like MLS is headed to the Great White North for it’s next club. Speaking at a gathering of Milwaukee investors and fans, grande queso Don Garber “said the next round of expansion should come in 2007, when Toronto is expected to join the league.”
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owners of the NHL Leafs and NBA Raptors, is in place to serve as investor-operators, and there’s a twenty thousand seat stadium in the works that has to be ready for the ‘07 FIFA U-20 Championship. The stadium will apparently include an “inflatable winter roof” so the field will be playable year-round. There’s a little bit of political back-and-forth going on in terms of the stadium location, but if the home of the Blizzard (?) is to be ready by April of ’07, these issues need to be solved quickly.
Point of information: the NASL Toronto Blizzard/Metros/Metros-Croatia drew 15,000+ fans in 1980, their most successful season. Between 1979 and 1984, Toronto attracted an average of 10,905 fans/season, a number that would fit right in with KC or San Jose.
I’m not sure how I feel about a Canadian club joining the league, especially when there are so many US cities that could support MLS. Of course, Toronto seems to have everything that Garber & Co. want: solid ownership, an SSS plan, a soccer-hungry fan base. I’ve read that the club will be stocked with mostly Canadian players, which doesn’t thrill me all that much, but I guess if Chivas can play with a mostly Hispanic roster, it shouldn’t be that big a deal. They won't be a road draw, that's for sure. In the search for national sports relevance, however, I think heading to Houston (which may still happen for SJ or KC), Philly (where to play, who to own?) or Seattle (Paul Allen, please pick up the white courtesy phone) should be a top priority.
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