Impact, Whitecaps to retain their NASL status after they make MLS moves By Steven Sandor Posted on November 24, 2010 2 0 605 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Even though both the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps are moving to MLS, both are retaining their memberships in the second-division NASL. NASL chief executive officer Aaron Davidson confirmed that MLS is aware that both the Impact and Whitecaps are retaining their memberships in NASL, even though Vancouver makes its debut as an MLS city in 2011 and Montreal makes the move in 2012. “They can still have teams in NASL; those teams can have synergies with the MLS franchises or they can be standalone teams,” said Davidson Tuesday, over the phone from Paraguay. Montreal owner Joey Saputo and Vancouver Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot were two major principles in the group of rebel USL owners who defected from that league to form NASL in 2010. They wanted to be part of an owner-operated league. But, as a stop-gap measure, the U.S. Soccer Federation ordered that the USL and NASL teams play in a single USSF Division-2 in 2010. But, on Sunday, the USSF granted the NASL and its proposed eight-team league — which includes Montreal and new boys FC Edmonton — provisional Div-2 status for 2011, giving NASL the clear win over USL. Davidson said he believes the final approval will be a formality. He said USSF-2 can’t officially sanction any league until its annual general meeting, coming in February. The provisional approval that came from Sunday’s meeting was the best the USSF could do and NASL could have hoped for. “We aren’t looking to start with more than eight teams,” said Davidson. “We believe in quality over quantity right now.” But the Canadian Soccer Association just placed a 10-month moratorium on any new teams going into foreign leagues; FC Edmonton falls outside of this ruling, but, if it becomes a permanent ban, it would prevent the Impact or Whitecaps from refiring their franchise rights in NASL, at least Canadian-based initiatives. But Davidson said the moratorium hasn’t deterred NASL expansion hopes for Canada in any way. “At the end of the day, the realistic mindset will prevail,” he said. “Right now, every federation is trying hard to protect its national players. But we believe if we want to have a viable first and second division, it has to be bi-national in this part of the world.” The USSF will sanction NASL as long as 75 per cent of its league membership or more is U.S. based. And, for Saputo and Kerfoot, that viable second division would include them for years to come. Davidson, who owns the Miami FC franchise, said the fact that the Impact and Whitecaps were such strong supporters of breaking away from the USL, even though both had plans to establish themselves in MLS, speaks to how dedicated their front offices are to NASL. “It’s a big testament to the idea of forming our own league.” FC Edmonton isn’t the Alberta capital’s first foray into second-division soccer. In 2004, the Edmonton Aviators of the USL began play; before the end of the inaugural season, the original ownership group had pulled the plug, and the USL operated the team as Edmonton FC until the end of the season. The team moved out of the 50,000-seat plus Commonwealth Stadium and was forced to move to the University of Alberta’s Foote Field, and even had to play games on community fields usually used for local rep games. Davidson is confident that things will be different this time. He said USL did little to promote itself. “I think it is like Miami,” he said. “Especially in middle-sized markets, I think it’s difficult to play in a league that’s anonymous. You need a strong league for a market like Edmonton. That’s something we haven’t had in second-division soccer in 20 years.” And, with a second division that’s organized, Davidson said there is plenty of reasons for MLS to work more closely with NASL than it has before. In the past, second-division soccer was “too chaotic” for MLS to support; now, if some stability can come to NASL, there is plenty of room for affiliations between first- and second-division sides. After all, Montreal and Vancouver will have membership in both leagues.