Steve Nash may be the wildcard in the race to bring another Major League Soccer franchise to Canada.
Martin Nash, Steve's brother, has confirmed that the Phoenix Suns star is ready to become actively involved in getting an MLS team in Vancouver, the city where he grew up.
"He's trying to get involved. I don't think he's very involved yet but he wants to get involved. He just wants to give the game of soccer a higher profile in Canada," said Martin Nash, who plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer Leagues.
"Soccer is our first-love sport. We grew up playing it and my dad played it and still plays it, so it's just something embedded into us."
MLS commissioner Don Garber met Steve Nash in May and wrote on the league Web site that the two-time NBA MVP may be interested in getting involved as part of an ownership group trying to bring a team to Canada.
Mark Abbott, the president of MLS, said the league is hesitant to speculate further.
"Steve Nash is obviously interested in soccer in Canada and what his role is ... I don't know how to say it, he would have to say what his role is with respect to that," said Abbott, who is the league's spokesperson on expansion issues.
The Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact are both trying to make the leap from the second-tier USL.
Major League Soccer will expand to Seattle in 2009 and Philadelphia in 2010 bringing the total number of teams to 16. An additional two franchises are likely to be added by the 2012 season.
Many American cities have expressed interest, including Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, Portland, San Diego and St. Louis.
The league will likely cap expansion once it reaches 18 teams, making this bid process all the more intense.
Bob Lenarduzzi, the president of the Whitecaps, said he would gladly welcome any support Nash offers.
"With his profile and his interest in the game and the fact he's a great Canadian that we're all very proud, of course we would welcome him. As far as his involvement, that's certainly premature from my perspective."
Nash recently invested in Women's Professional Soccer and has made no secret of his desire to help the sport grow.
Both Vancouver, with owner Greg Kerfoot, and Montrea,l with the Saputo family, appear to have the funding to pay the projected US$40-million for an expansion franchise. And Montreal just opened a new soccer-specific building, Saputo Stadium. MLS has said this is a necessity for any expansion applicant.
The Whitecaps are scrambling to get the ball rolling on a new soccer stadium to be located on Vancouver's waterfront. A disagreement with the Vancouver Port Corp., which owns some land the Whitecaps need, is holding up the project.
The next key date in the process will be July 24 when the MLS gathers in Toronto for the All-Star Game, with expansion talk expected to be on the agenda.