CSA president doesn’t believe brewing NASL-MLS Division-1 battle would spill into Canada

CSA President Victor Montagliani with Canadian women's national team defender Emily Zurrer at a jersey unveiling event earlier this year.

CSA President Victor Montagliani with Canadian women’s national team defender Emily Zurrer at a jersey unveiling event earlier this year.

If the North American Soccer League and Major League Soccer are to be on opposite ends of a battle in the U.S. courts, the Canadian Soccer Association doesn’t want any part of it.

CSA President Victor Montagliani said that the rattling of sabres hasn’t been heard across the border.

“It’s not really a major issue here,” said Montagliani, referring to the NASL’s push for Division-1 status in the United States.

Jeffrey Kessler, who helped Tom Brady (at least for now) beat the NFL’s Deflategate rap, is representing the NASL as it bids for Div.-1 status south of the border. In both Canada and the United States, Major League Soccer is recognized as Division-1, while NASL is Division-2.

A letter from Kessler has been made public, in which he claims the United States Soccer Federation and MLS are in violation of antitrust laws; the case is rooted in the USSF’s plan to change the criteria needed for a league to qualify as Division-1, including stadium sizes, sizes of markets and number of teams in a league.

For Canada, which has just three teams in MLS and only two in NASL, the arguments simply don’t carry the same kind of threat. And Montagliani confirmed that NASL has made no similar Div.-1 arguments to the CSA. In fact, he said NASL hasn’t broached the Division-1 topic with the CSA at all.

“It’s an American thing,” he said. “There has been no approach to us from the NASL in that capacity. And, it’s not really a major issue here.”

Why do Canadians see this as a uniquely American fight? Because FC Edmonton and the Ottawa Fury, the two Canadian NASL teams, get the chances to play in the Amway Canadian Championship — which is Canada’s officially recognized soccer title — against the three Canadian MLS sides. And, because there are no plans to limit that competition, everyone has been given a legitimate shot at the Canadian title.

“They compete in the Amway, and that’s a competition we’d like to see expand in the future, to possibly include some of the semi-pro teams,” said Montagliani

If a rumoured Canadian pro league comes to fruition, the CSA may have some sanctioning issues to discuss, but Montagliani said that it still won’t change some key things: That MLS and NASL teams based north of the border will continue to have the chances to play in the Canadian Championship; and that MLS and NASL are both closed leagues — as in, no promotion or relegation. And, he made it clear that, without promotion or relegation, the Div-1 vs. Div-2 arguments don’t necessarily carry all that much weight. In his eyes, both leagues can simply go about their business and not worry about who calls itself 1 or 2.

The potential rise of a Canadian league could change things a little for the Canadian teams in MLS and NASL, but not in any way that would restrict the way they currently do business or their ability to play for the Voyageurs Cup, said Montagliani.

“I think at some point, we’re going to possibly have to look at having more control over the situation. We’re hopeful that will come with a Canadian league or Canadian division. And if that happens we may look at the designations of teams competing in closed leagues like MLS.”

But, again, Montagliani stressed that, with NASL and MLS being closed leagues, these division designations don’t mean a heck of a lot. As long as the Canadian teams have opportunities to play for Canadian trophies, the CSA doesn’t feel anyone can say it’s acted prejudicially against one league or the other.



About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.