Get together - Sportsnet.ca


Ryan Johnston

While Vancouver may have a long-term plan, the Montreal Impact's future is a little less certain.

First the Vancouver Whitecaps released this:

(9:30 a.m. ET): The owners of the Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, formerly of the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1), together with St. Louis Soccer United announced today that they have formed a new professional soccer league to play in the United States and Canada beginning in April 2010.

Then Montreal Impact president Joey Saputo said this:

(12:29 p.m. ET): "I wish to reiterate that there are still ongoing talks between the Montreal Impact and the USL. We continue working on different options for the 2010 season, including the possibility that the Impact take part in the USL-1 or in a new league. We created the Team Owners Association in January 2008 in order to take our destiny in our own hands, as is the case in any other league worldwide. It is already November 10 and we needed to submit to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) an application for the creation of a new league for this option to remain viable."

I phoned Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, who said this:

(12:30 p.m. ET): "We, as a club, are part of the Team Owners Association (TOA) and we are going to see our application through to it either being accepted or not. But in the time being we are not talking to the USL."

Then later, perhaps after I mentioned Saputo's conflicting press release to Lenarduzzi during the phone conversation, Saputo pulled the handbrake with this:

(4:30 p.m. ET): "Montreal is fully committed to its fellow teams and to the new league application. As Chairman of the Team Owners Association (TOA), I can say that myself and every TOA member has always been open to discussions with the USL, which would give the teams the requisite ownership and control over our league. However, since USL has historically and currently been unwilling to grant us that necessary ownership and control, we have applied to launch a new league and that endeavour has my personal attention and commitment."

The whole idea is audacious, and both owners have reason enough to act in the manner each did on Tuesday. Lenarduzzi is moving to Major League Soccer in 2011, and can afford the PR hit should the league not get off the ground by spring of next year. But Saputo does not have a MLS safety net to catch his Impact should it fall.

Until the two most influential owners in the USL (and whatever the future rogue league will be called) can get on the same page over allegiance, those responsible for signing off on the proposal -- the United States Soccer Federation -- will see it as nothing more than a reason to say no.