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NASL oozes confidence: Montreal, FC Edmonton OK for NCC

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Both the Montreal Impact and FC Edmonton will have full sanctions to participate in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, said Impact owner Joey Saputo in an NASL conference call Wednesday.

He said the indications he has from the CSA is that the format for the four-team NCC will be released in the next couple of weeks, and that the Impact and FCE would be seen as Div. 2 clubs.

But, he is confident that all eight NASL teams will have Div. 2 status after Saturday’s United States Soccer Federation vote in Las Vegas. The NASL expects the USSF board to approve its re-application for Div. 2 status on Friday, and then have the membership ratify that vote on Saturday.

Saputo admitted that if the USSF was to reject the NASL’s application, it would cause a lot of hardship for the Impact, who are moving to MLS in 2012.

“As far as we are concerned, there is no question in our minds that we (are not) moving to Division 3. We don’t have a plan B.”

In November, the NASL received provisional approval from the USSF for Div. 2 status, promising it would meet stringent new criteria created by the federation. But, the league admitted that it didn’t have all the paperwork needed by the USSF when the federation rescinded that provisional approval three weeks ago. But the NASL is confident all of its ducks are now in a row and will be approved by the USSF for the 2011 season.

“We had not submitted all the paperwork,” admitted league CEO Aaron Davidson.

He admitted getting all of the ownership groups around a table “was not an easy task.”

Also, Traffic USA, a subsidiary of the giant Brazilian Traffic Sports Agency, needed to take a majority stake in the Carolina RailHawks. Traffic already owns Miami and has a stake in the Atlanta Silverbacks. The league owns the NSC Minnesota Stars. But Davidson sees the concentrated ownership no differently than MLS having the Hunt family or AEG own multiple franchises in North America’s top tier.

“It’s not something we (Traffic) were planning on, but Traffic is one of the biggest soccer companies in the world. We had the wherewithal to do it.”

So, all eight teams are set to approach the USSF meeting the new Div. 2 criteria: That a shareholder holding at least 35 per cent of a club must have a net worth of US$20million; that each team provide a letter of credit worth US$750,000 and that those letters of credit would also apply to helping another NASL franchise if it ran out of money. Basically, the USSF created these rules so we would no longer see an Edmonton Aviators situation; where a team folds halfway during its first season, because the owners didn’t understand the economic risks of operating in what Davidson admitted was a “loss environment.”

The Aviators declared bankruptcy in 2004, halfway through their inaugural USL season.

The USSF’s new financial rules (in the old USL, a letter of credit of $100,000 was good enough) are its way of ensuring some stability at the Div. 2 level.

The NASL is going into this with a lot of confidence. It has MLS, which has reminded the USSF how important it is for Montreal to be in a strong Div. 2 situation in 2011, on its side.

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