Although we typically focus on U.S. soccer here at footiebusiness.com, the potential legal action in England between West Ham and Sheffield United caught our attention. It was recently reported that the Clubs reached an out of court settlement in the litigation stemming from the Tevez issues a couple of years back. However, the dispute may not end there. Fortunately, sports law guru Dan Fitzgerald has written a detailed article on the continuing squabble. We recommend that you check it out.
The Vancouver Sun is one of many media outlets announcing that March 18, 2009 will be the day that Vancouver is announced as the next MLS expansion franchise. The team will begin play at a renovated BC Place in 2009. According to reports, the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL (following the Seattle model), will transition to MLS. Multiple outlets are reporting that the official announcement will be made on Wednesday in Vancouver.
The $40 million expansion fee will certainly pump up League coffers. The ownership group seems solid. Billionaire Greg Kerfoot has long been a friend of soccer and Steve Nash adds glamor and splash to the ownership. The Whitecaps have done well at the gate and the market is hungry for higher level soccer. BC Place is well situated and funding is in place for a substantial renovation (well over $200 million U.S.) that will add a retractable roof. Soccer capacity will be limited to 20k.
As we have said before, there is some downside here. Vancouver is way off the typical sports beaten path (just ask the Grizzilies of the NBA), and would add even more lengthy travel to the MLS season. BC place is not an ideal soccer venue and is not a “soccer specific stadium”. Moroeover, MLS was established in large part to further the development of U.S. soccer. With the addition of a second Candian franchise, the League may be guilty of chasing dollars at the expense of its initial mission.
Nevertheless, this will likely be a great move for the League. As we have said previously, the money is there, the support is there and as a “mid-size city” (for sports purposes), I think it is a good fit for MLS. There will be a natural rivalary in the Pacific Northwest (especially with Portland the next possible franchise), and a Canadian rival in Toronto.
Congratulations to Vancouver! Two years until kickoff!