Professional soccer is coming to Mississauga. Well, sort of. Professional indoor soccer. Or, as they call it nowadays, arena soccer.
The Mississauga Metro Stars (yes, you read that right), will begin play at the end of October in the Major Arena Soccer League, a 17 team league with teams across North America, including one in Monterrey, Mexico.
This isn’t the first time that an indoor/arena/hocker/sockey team has operated in the GTA, although the history has not been strong. From 1980 to 1982 the Blizzard played in the NASL indoor season and the Toronto Shooting Stars played in the National Professional Soccer League in the 1996-97 season. The team’s owners walked away from the Shooting Stars just three games into season. They lost close to $1-million and averaged just 3,000 and change in attendance.
I was one of the 3,000 on a couple occasions. My most lasting memory is the time the mascot got jammed in the door trying to get to the arena floor. The cheerleaders had to help him/her/it out. The team wasn’t very good and the atmosphere in the 15,500 seat Maple Leaf Gardens was…lacking. To say the least.
So, this new enterprise will need to break new ground if it is to become popular. That’s not to say that it can’t – TFC was seen as a huge risk in 2006. That seems laughable now. So, who knows.
Helping the cause will be one very familiar name. Dwayne DeRosario is coming out of retirement to play for the team (Adrian Cann, as well). In the early days, there will probably be more than a few people that make the trip out to Mississauga just to see DeRo play again.
Beyond whether people will care about the team is just one half of the question though. The other half is whether Canadian soccer fans should want the team to find an audience. Many view…sockey…let’s go with sockey…as an abomination on the game that encourages all the wrong kids of technical play. Beyond that there is the matter of Mississauga as a potential CanPL market. Would having an arena team there take attention away from a “real” team?
I have concerns about Mississauga as a market in general. Time will tell whether those concerns are misguided or, unfortunately, correct. Perhaps this sockey team will provide an opportunity for Mississauga soccer fans to prove that they can support a local team.
Ultimately, this is harmless. The MetroStars aren’t going to change much about the soccer landscape in this region or country, but they might provide some lighthearted entertainment in the MLS offseason.
And more DeRo! That alone makes this moderately interesting.
Thanks to Dave Bailey for providing the photos of the event.
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So far I love the Nations League format in UEFA and CONCACAF. Seeing bottom feeder teams actually have chances at victories and in the case of UEFA, automatic qualification to the Euros. The more games these smaller countries get, the better it will be for the rest of the countries.
One thing that was not mentioned during the biweekly State of the League article on CanPL.ca was the format that the league would actually take. We don’t know how many games there will be or whether there will be conferences or anything of that sort.
We don’t know with 100 percent certainty anyway. It’s long been stated that the league wants to launch in a “European” style, meaning a single table with no playoff format.
It’s always been the position of this space that it would be a mistake to do that.
In the North American soccer bubble the conventional wisdom is that anything European is “correct” and that things North American are “wrong.” Ironically, the more local the football is in this part of the world, the more global the people involved in the leagues want things to be run.
And, that seems to describe the Canadian Premier League.
The problem with this thinking is that it ignores the vast majority of potential fans that do not think in such terms. These are fans that have grown up with North American sporting traditions and find European conventions, well, foreign. Not, better.
At best these fans think the European model is neutral. At worse they view it as wrong.
So, when I hear that the CanPL wants to launch without a playoff format…I shake my head.
Not having a championship game denies the league a massive marketing push. The disaster scenario is if a team wins the title with multiple weeks left in the season. North American fans will not show up to a game if all hope is lost. Not outside the hardcore, anyway.
And, the hardcore is not big enough to sustain this league. If it was thee would have been a CanPL 15 years ago. Hell, the CSL wouldn’t have folded.
I suspect this is a lesson the CanPL will learn quickly. I’ll be surprised if there isn’t some kind of playoff within the first few years of the league. It might just be a two team final, or something equally exclusionary. That’s fine. The league just needs its day to shine. There will be a significant CFL presence in the league. They need their Grey Cup Sunday.
As a quick aside: I strongly disagree with the notion that the winner of a round robin tournament is somehow a more “legitimate” champion than the winner of a playoff. They are equally legitimate. So long as every team in a league is working towards the same championship goal then the winner is legitimate. Period.
That said, there is a strong contingent of folks that are single table truthers out there that insist on idea that a playoff is a bastardization. So, it’s probably going to start that way. They might argue that the Voyageurs Cup will offer that opportunity for a showcase day, and it will. For TFC. Or the Whitecaps. Or Impact. It seems a long way off before we see an all CanPL final.
There might be a middle ground. Maybe the CanPL could create a League Cup competition that is restricted to CanPL members. That way you’d be guaranteed a Cup final day and there would be another piece of hardware floating around that teams could win – there’s nothing like winning a title to boost attendance attention.
Canadian soccer fans have gone a long time without having a special day to collectively celebrate the sport. It would be a shame to not create one now based on some kind of misguided desire to “be like Europe.”
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If we must find something positive about the Ottawa Fury’s decision to play the 2019 season in the USL (and possibly beyond, if allowed) it’s that the Canadian Premier League was finally jolted out of its cone of silence.
In what was said to be the first of a biweekly feature on CanPL.ca. League commissioner addressed many of the things that fans have been desperate to learn about. There is a lot to chew on – although not much precise details. Read it for yourself.
The mic drop was this:
"As far as a specific ownership group goes, we’ve had many discussions with the Fury and with OSEG through the last three years. They were very much included in all information and strategy over that time. As for a transition to the Canadian Premier League, we were quite willing to adapt in a number of areas, because we recognized the fact that they were an existing team playing in the USL this year, under different circumstances. We were prepared to accommodate them, specifically around details like players, soccer operations and player salaries. We had actually offered to have them operate under the exact same circumstances as they are now. We felt like we presented a series of accommodations on a number of different things in order for Ottawa to feel confident about playing in the Canadian Premier League. We did everything we could to help them feel welcome. Unfortunately, they made a different decision and we were surprised after the accommodations we had proposed, when they notified us last week that they were prepared to continue to operate in the USL. "
The emphasis is mine. This is a very polite Canadian throw down, but make no mistake: They dropped the gloves.
They also said in the article that they were talking to “multiple groups” in the Capital region. I would suspect CanPL officials would say that they have always been open about the possibility of having multiple teams in the same market and that there is nothing beyond that statement other than it shows a willingness of the league to consider that.
But, let’s be honest here. Having two teams in the capital right now makes as much sense as having two teams in Oklahoma City did a couple years ago when the NASL went head to head with the USL team there. The CanPL team would attract a loud, but small, group of Canadian loyalists, but as the established team in the market the Fury would have a massive advantage. I’m not sure it would be in the CanPL’s best interest to fight that fight.
Aside: I’m willing to listen to a local argument about whether locating a team in Gatineau might allow for both to co-exist, with different identities and fan bases. Doing so would obviously solve the CanPL’s Quebec-less problem too.
Regardless of whether it is a good idea or not, it’s clear that the CanPL is committed to finding a solution that finds them in that market. If rumours are to be believed the debate about whether to continue talks with OSEG last week was short (two words short. One of which rhymed with puck), so it seems unlikely that there will be much conversation between the groups in the near future.
In a years time, when a new agreement between the Fury and USL is needed, the league will hope that it has more leverage than it does currently. Although about 70% of CanPL fans I surveyed on Twitter last week were opposed to Ottawa’s decision, my Twitter mentions tell me those numbers are likely reversed in Ottawa. That’s unlikely to change until we have concrete evidence of exactly what the league looks like. If the level is as good as league advocates hope and think it will be then OSEG might find itself on the outside looking in as another Capital group gets the licence and an outside force prevents further play in an American league.
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