Canada’s soccer image is about to expand.
Alongside the fairly young Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) will join the other 16 Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises in the expansion year of 2011.
Ottawa might also join the MLS.
But what are the odds that a Winnipeg soccer franchise would be able to survive?
Currently, there is no talk of a future Winnipeg MLS team but the possibility of it happening someday does seem very likely. We believe it’s even more possible than even the Winnipeg Jets comeback.
The only thing really standing in Winnipeg’s way is finances. Vancouver will have to dish out $35 million to join the league in 2011. All other franchise entrances cost $40 million. There appears to be no reports on why Vancouver’s entrance fee was lowered, but Winnipeg would need a similar deal.
This is the same issue that prevents a Winnipeg Jets comeback. But the $40 million fee is substantially less than the $50 million the NHL requires, and Winnipeg simply cannot afford the high salaries of NHL players and coaching staff.
One thing that is always brought up during a Jets discussion is Winnipeg’s sports fans. We seem to support success but fail to support teams failing.
The argument is that Winnipeggers would embrace the Jets for the first few years, but once things start going bad, the support might wither away. That possibility has scared away the chances of a Jets return.
Perhaps that would not be the case for a soccer team. Soccer is an international sport and because of the city’s multicultural make-up, there would be a lot of support for a soccer team.
Soccer fans, especially immigrants who grew up with soccer in their home countries, would love the opportunity to watch soccer live in Winnipeg.
Vancouver is also a victim of losing a major sports franchise in the Vancouver Grizzlies, but their soccer team will have a chance to succeed where a basketball team could not. They do have the advantage of having two-time National Basketball Association MVP Steve Nash as one of the owners of the Vancouver Whitecaps, but there should be no reason why Winnipeg could not find similar financial support.
If David Asper can make a $65 million bid for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, why could he not be a potential owner of a Winnipeg soccer team? A soccer team would cost less than what he offered for the Blue Bombers, and would allow Winnipeg to become a part of the largest soccer league in North America.
Sorry Jets fans but maybe you should cheering “olay olay olay olay” instead of “go Jets go.”
Published in Volume 63, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 26, 2009)