Home NASL & USL More NASL & USL CSA President: Canadian NWSL franchise wouldn’t have to be in MLS city; Hamilton USL sanction decision “still far away”

CSA President: Canadian NWSL franchise wouldn’t have to be in MLS city; Hamilton USL sanction decision “still far away”


Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani believes that having an NWSL club north of the border isn’t just about developing domestic women players. He believes Canadian top-flight pro teams are about preserving a unique soccer culture in this country.

Montagliani was at Edmonton’s City Hall Monday, for the launch of the U-20 World Cup ticketing campaign. Edmonton is one of four host cities and, in 2015, will stage more Women’s World Cup games than any other Canadian centre.

“I think it’s important to have an NWSL team, because it allows us to keep our unique identity and culture, when it comes to football,” said Montagliani. “And that unique culture is important for the male and female game.”

But, if Canada is to have an NWSL team, where would it go? FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath has said that if his NASL men’s side was to break even, he’d consider throwing in for an NWSL side. The Eddies launched women’s programs in Calgary and Edmonton this fall.

Or, would it be better off in an MLS city, where it could dovetail with Toronto FC, the Whitecaps or the Impact?

Montagliani said he believes there is lots of room for Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver for a women’s pro team, but that the CSA would also back a venture in a non-MLS city.

“If you take a look at the NWSL right now, out of the Americans teams there, not all of them are in MLS markets. So, if it works for them, why wouldn’t it work in Canada? I don’t see it that way than an NWSL team has to be in the same city as an MLS team. What we want is committed, stable ownership, that ticks off all the boxes.”

Montagliani said there were interested Canadian investors who came forward when the NWSL was launched, but it didn’t pan out into a team. But he thinks that, if both the U-20 Women’s World Cup and Women’s World Cup are successful, it will drive interest, and show that the women’s game is more stable.

But, if Fath ever decided to take the plunge, Montagliani said the CSA would back him. Montagliani said Fath has been the kind of investor Canadian soccer needs more of, willing to invest in the grassroots of the game. But, of course, Montagliani said he’s not the commissioner of the NWSL nor is he on the board of governors.

“I think Tom Fath has proven to be a very committed owner,” said Montagliani.

Last January, Montagliani said that the Canadian Soccer Association wouldn’t sanction USL-PRO teams based in Canada. (CLICK HERE)

But, as investors look to move the Toronto Lynx into Hamilton — and build an affiliation with Toronto FC as mandated by the MLS-USL working agreement — it looks as if the position has been softened. Toronto Lynx president Alain Theroux has asked Hamilton’s council to consider a plan to allow it to become a tenant in the new Tim Hortons Field.

Included in the documents to Hamilton City Council was a CSA letter of support for a Hamilton USL team.

When asked if a Hamilton USL team would get sanctioned, Montagliani said it’s too far away to say yes or no.

“They are still far away from getting to that point,” said the CSA president.

But Montagliani said situations like Hamilton’s could be examined on a “case by case” basis.

“It’s about creating as many opportunities as we can for Canadian players, Canadian coaches,” he said.

And he said sanctioning is a lot more than a rubber stamp. A club has to prove itself to the CSA, that it’s financially viable and invested in the future.

“When we put in the moratorium (on sanctioning lower-division teams in non-Canadian based leagues) we didn’t do it so we could say we did not want to sanction this guy or those guys. We wanted to take a long look at our pyramid and see how it could develop. We wanted to see what would happen with the Quebec semipro league and now an Ontario semipro league. We have some things that we want to happen in the next two or three years in relation to the professional game and the way the pyramid is shaped in Canada.”

As for those plans, Montagliani said the CSA isn’t ready to unveil them yet.

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  1. Jayme

    November 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Population should not be the main factor some teams get lost in larger cities: And the fact is Toronto or Montreal really don’t have a good track record of support for non-nhl teams.

    • Seathanaich

      November 2, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      Don’t be daft, of course it should be the main factor, and it is. That’s why Canadian MLS cities are in Van, Tor, and Mtl rather than Lethbridge, Windsor and Trois-Rivieres. It’s the first factor to consider.

      It’s no coincidence that Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa (pop 1.1M, 1.2M, and 1.2M) have NHL teams and Hamilton and Quebec (pop 750K and 750K) do not.

      • Steven Sandor

        November 2, 2013 at 8:09 pm

        What I will say is that in the 1990s — and this is coming from someone who used to work for an NHL team — the sports business model changed. Population is important, but needs to be tempered by DISPOSABLE INCOME PER HOUSEHOLD. So imagine this formula, population X avg. disposable income.

        So, let’s say you are in a city of 1 million where people have an average disposable income of $30,000. And a city of 2 million where the average disposable income is just $10,000. It would be foolish to put the team in the city of 2 million rather than the city of 1 million, because the amount of disposable income available to spend on tickets, merchandise, pay-per-views, etc. is actually greater in the smaller centre.

        You also have to look at where the city will be in 10-20 years. Is there rapid population growth? Or is the city shrinking, like a Detroit or St. Louis? How many potential young fans will there be in that city down the road?

        Philadelphia is one of the largest metros in the U.S., but MLS didn’t jump on that city. It was in Salt Lake City and Columbus long before it went to Philly. Market conditions have to be right. Atlanta is still a dream for MLS, and it’s a larger city than many current MLS markets.

        As well, there are some cities that naturally gravitate to some sports more than the others. In Boston, you wouldn’t know baseball ratings are at the bottom of the barrel. In Seattle and Portland, soccer is part of the mainstream. In Atlanta, U. of Georgia football and the Falcons do well, but the Hawks struggle on many night to grab fans and the city now has lost two NHL teams. Basketball didn’t work in Vancouver.

        But what we do know is that the only team in Canada that has said anything public about NWSL, and that’s a long-term if-the-men’s-team-makes-money thing, is FC Edmonton.

        • Seathanaich

          November 2, 2013 at 10:09 pm

          It’s the main factor, not the only one. How difficult is this to figure out? Geez Louise, respond to what I write (“main factor”), not some Straw Man (“only factor”) that I didn’t write.

    • Seathanaich

      November 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      Of course population should be the main factor. That’s why MLS is in Van, Tor, and Mtl rather than in Victoria, Hamilton, and Quebec City. Duh.

  2. Jayme

    November 2, 2013 at 12:15 am


    While population can be used as a factor, both ways sure you can say on one hand a larger city a pro women’s team might be a good fit but on the other hand a women’s team could get lost in a big city like Toronto, where you can take a smaller city where a pro team might not get lost.

    My point is you can’t just look at population and assume teams should start in large cities and do well. For example look at all the teams in Toronto that don’t do well attendance wise, even look at the Canadian Womens Hockey League, many of the world’s best hockey players, yet attendance is not good at all.

    Some small cities are in fact better sports markets then larger markets again just look at the amount of teams that don’t do well attendance wise in larger markets yet those same teams do real well in smaller markets. There is a reason, in a big city those teams get lost.

    • Seathanaich

      November 2, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      The Canadian Womens Hockey League has zero advertising presence, zero broadcasting presence, zero media presence, and doesn’t pay its players, so that’s a rather useless comparison to what is being done in NWSL. I doubt that one hockey fan in a hundred even knows it exists. In contrast, if an NWSL team was in any of the three Canadian MLS cities, the fan knowledge about the team from cross-advertising (as in Portland) would instantly be very high among the existing local MLS fan base.

      If the CWHL actually promoted itself, actually paid its players, actually had wealthy backers, etc, it would have the chance to grow into something bigger; but in present form it is nothing more than an amateur league which accommodates its players, not its potential fans, sponsors, and media partners.

  3. Greg O

    October 29, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Steve do you know if the USSF would pull an MLS Roster rule as to how many “Canadians” could be on the Roster? Would we run into a similar issue as to where a NWSL on Canadian soil, with Canadian Funds(assuming CSA might add some too) will be limited to how many Canadian Players we can play?

    Or is the NWSL a different story since their finances aren’t that great? We could allow 6 foreginers(2US, 2Mexican and 2intl just like they currently do)…..

  4. Seathanaich

    October 29, 2013 at 2:20 am

    The CSA is NEVER going to build a semi-pro womens league, just like it is never going to build a professional or semi-professional mens league. They have neither the funds nor the clout to do so, and we all need to accept and be honest about that. That being the case, it should be staying out of the way of entrepreneurs who are building Canadian clubs within the larger US soccer pyramid, whether in MLS, NASL, USL, or NWSL.

    Canada needs not only a team in NWSL, it needs three of them, in the cities that have MLS teams. We shouldn’t be late to this party (like we were to MLS), we should be working to be next in line for expansion teams. If the MLS teams don’t want to get involved, the CSA should be doing everything it can to encourage other ownership groups to come forward. I’d prioritise Vancouver over Toronto at this point.

    The CSA could also help this process by lending public support, and talking to municipalities regarding the construction of modern, appropriately sized facilities for NWSL teams to play in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. It should also be assisting in the existing W-League teams (in Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec), as well as looking to see if it can assist the return of the W-League to Victoria and Vancouver, and its expansion to Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.

    • Jayme

      November 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      I don’t think it makes much sense for Ottawa to stay in the w league much longer, they’re a real strong club and have been for years. They should be in the top league, also to say its should be only the 3 MLS teams, you’re leaving out some very strong teams. Bottom line is it should be the top teams that move up.

      • Seathanaich

        November 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm

        I’m not “leaving out” any strong teams. W-League teams and NWSL teams aren’t even comparable. The top players will move to pro teams where they can get paid if they can. If Montreal and/or Toronto got NWSL teams, all the top players in Ottawa (and everywhere else in Ontario and Quebec) would try to get onto the pro team. For those players in Ottawa who don’t want to try to play professionally, the W-League remains – but it won’t be able to compete with any of the NWSL teams.

        The NWSL currently has 8 teams. To think there will be multiple Canadian teams added any time soon is daft. A more realistic scenario is what happened in MLS – starting with one. Obviously twin Canadian expansion teams (in Vancouver and either Toronto or Montreal) would be better, but there is currently nobody publicly discussing owning an NWSL team in ANY Canadian city.

        People in Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa need to understand that, with populations of 1.1M, 1.2M, and 1.2M, they will not be ahead of Vancouver (2.3M), Toronto (5.75M) or Montreal (3.75M) in any of these scenarios. That’s just reality.

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