For Lenarduzzi, the silence is deafening in ownership spat - Province

By Marc Weber

United Soccer Leagues president Tim Holt didn't want to talk about the fast-approaching showdown with more than half the First Division teams.

But it's hard to ignore: two of the clubs threatening to form a breakaway league are in the championship final.

The Vancouver Whitecaps trail the Montreal Impact 3-2 heading into Saturday's road leg.

"Right now, I have too much respect for the two teams, all the players and the fans, to be talking about anything other than the competition," Holt said Saturday. "There'll be plenty of time to talk about other things after the finals."

Not that much time, according to Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi.

He wouldn't put a deadline on procedures, but when asked if one month was in the ballpark, he said: "At most."

The major issue is that a group of current and future team owners in Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Montreal, St. Louis, Tampa and Vancouver want part-ownership in the league.

NIKE sold the entire USL umbrella -- more than 700 teams across USL-1, USL-2, Premier Development League, W-League and Super-Y league -- to NuRock Soccer Holdings on Aug. 27.

Even thought the Whitecaps are bound for Major League Soccer in 2011, they still have teams throughout the USL pyramid and are looking to keep a reserve squad or under-23 team in USL-1.

Carolina RailHawks majority owner Selby Wellman is main spokesman for the group of clubs calling itself the Team Owners Association (TOA).

He's accused NIKE of an end-around on club owners in selling to NuRock, whose chairman is a real-estate mogul with a PDL team in Atlanta.

Much centres on marketing. A stake in ownership would give the clubs a say in how the league promotes itself, an area of great concern over the years.

The TOA's big bargaining chip is that clubs commit to the USL on a yearly basis, and they are not yet locked in for 2010.

"The lack of common ground right now ... both sides are aware this can't go on indefinitely," Lenarduzzi said. "There has to be a resolution quickly."

Big match details

USL-1 final, 2nd leg:

Vancouver Whitecaps at Montreal Impact

- Saturday, Oct. 17, 11:30 a.m. PT; Fox Sports World Canada, TEAM 1040 AM

- Montreal leads aggregate- goals series 3-2. If teams are tied after two games, they'll play a 30-minute overtime (no golden goal), followed, if needed, by penalty kicks.

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