Vancouver Whitecaps await word on exodus - The Vancouver Sun


BY IAN WALKER

There's not a lot to say about the Team Owners Association's decision to forge ahead in its formation its own men's professional soccer league. At least not until the yet-to-be named league gets approval from the United States Soccer Association later this month.

The Vancouver Whitecaps along with the Montreal Impact, Carolina RailHawks, Miami FC, Minnesota Thunder and the expansion St. Louis Soccer United make up the TOA, which was formed in January of 2008 in an attempt to have more of a say in how the USL is run. The yet-to-be named TOA league is set to begin its first season of play in April.

Again, as long as it gets the thumbs up from the suits at the USSF. A decision is expected by Nov. 23.

""We're not announcing a split, we're announcing that we are forging ahead," said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. "I don't think it's a rubber stamp. Until the USSF say yes, there's an element of uncertainty."

One would think with the Whitecaps making the jump to Major League Soccer in 2011, the easy thing to do is just suck it up for another season. And you'd be right.

"But one of our core objectives is to help grow the sport in B.C. and in Canada and it's our belief that a strong second division, whether we are playing in it or not, is something that will help the sport," said Lenarduzzi.

Interestingly enough, even if the TOA is successful in its application, Vancouver would still maintain teams in the USL's Premier Development League, W-League, and Super-Y League.

Or so the Whitecaps hope.

"That's where I give the USL credit, they haven't tried to leverage that involvement against our desire to start up our own league," said Lenarduzzi. "To not have those would be a big blow to our club. We have a difference of opinion at the USL-1 level. Beneath that, at least at the present time, there doesn't seem to be any problems."

None of Tuesday's announcement should come as a surprise. Whitecap fans have known of the rift between the USL and a group of its owners for quite some time now.

The split leaves the USL-1 with teams in Portland, Puerto Rico, Rochester, Austin and Cleveland as well as expansion franchise's in New York and Tampa.

While the USL did not return calls the The Sun on Tuesday, it did put out a statement objecting to the TOA's application "on the grounds that there is misrepresentation, interference with USL business operations and substantial debt amongst the membership of the parties applying for certification."

In other words, this is far from over.

iwalker@vancouversun.com

www.twitter.com/WalkerBigTalker

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