MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps have put their dispute with the new owners of the United Soccer Leagues on hold for the final, despite what Impact president Joey Saputo on Thursday called "low-blow tactics" to pressure dissident clubs to stay in the league.
The USL sent emails to players from Carolina, Minnesota and Miami FC two weeks ago informing them that they were released from their contracts. They are among a group of clubs, including Montreal and Vancouver, who did not meet a Sept. 1 deadline to confirm they will play in the USL-1 next season.
The three teams insist their player contracts remain in force.
"When you are negotiating, there are certain tactics you use and that was a low-blow tactic," said Saputo. "There was an agreement signed that if we could not come to an agreement that the USL would help in the movement of the teams to a new league or whatever.
"For them to come out with that type of letter was inappropriate, and I think they realize it was. It caused trouble in Carolina, Minnesota and Miami and it has no merit whatsoever. The players are still under contract, I understand, from a (United States Soocer Federation) point of view."
He said Montreal and Vancouver players would likely have received the same message had they not still been involved in the playoffs. The two Canadian clubs meet in the second leg of the final Saturday at Saputo Stadium.
Several teams were upset when Nike sold the league to private buyers in August. They had hoped to have the league owned and controlled by the clubs.
The eight member teams of the Team Owners Association have threatened to form a breakaway league next season if they cannot come to an agreement on how the league will be run.
Saputo said league officials are to attend the final and that negotiations will continue. No deadline has been set, but he expects a resolution by mid-November, which is when teams confirmed last year that they would play the 2009 season.
"We've decided we'll let the playoffs go through," said Saputo. "We're focused on that now and, after the final, we'll sit down again and hopefully come to come some sort of agreement."
Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.