Prepare for the unexpected when Major League Soccer makes its expansion announcement.
They've said it will be late this year or early next. I'm hearing it could be much sooner. Maybe even around the MLS Cup final on November 23rd at The Home Depot Centre.
Who gets the nod? Depends on who you talk to. I've travelled to Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver over the past three weeks and in the course of those visits, I've chatted with the heavy hitters who know more than most.
I can tell you this. The Vancouver and Montreal bids are superb. And the league knows it. You'll be blown away, in the words of Bob Lenarduzzi by what B.C. Place Stadium will look like after the Olympic renovations. Just might be enough to make them give up fighting the stupidly stubborn authorities in that city regarding their proposed waterfront stadium.
In Montreal I was impressed by how ready they are today. They tell me they can get Stade Saputo up to standards in one short off-season.
Ottawa is intriguing. The Senators ownership group is as strong as it gets with the locally admired Eugene Melnyk pushing it ahead. They have a great stadium plan. But there's also a plan to renovate Lansdowne Park, a location that the local citizenry fondly clings to as a source of some sort of civic nostalgia.
It's hard to tell how this battle will shake down. It could be that Ottawa is thinking more about 2013 anyway, which brings up another interesting point. There is the looming possibility that the league will come out and announce four teams all at once, two for 2011 and two more for 2013. And if Philadelphia, which is scheduled to begin play in 2010 is struggling financially as we keep hearing, they might announce five new teams.
Sounds rather farfetched, but MLS does have a history of making things up as they go along. Or maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe the global economic downturn has everyone running scared and there'll be no new teams.
But I'm betting on Vancouver and one new American team for 2011. It could be South Florida. Word is the Barcelona people are serious about this. And two more for 2013. I just don't know which ones yet.