THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett has teamed up with the Montreal Impact in a bid for a Major League Soccer franchise, Impact president Joey Saputo said Wednesday.
"I can confirm that we are in discussions with Gillett Entertainment Group as well as with Major League Soccer to bring an MLS franchise to Montreal," Saputo said in a statement. "However, I am currently in no position to share any more details, since doing so would jeopardize the process."
Montreal La Presse reported that they hope to call the team Montreal FC and begin play in the 2009 season.
The two would split the $30-million franchise fee as well as a $12-million expansion of Saputo Stadium from 13,000 to 20,000 seats. The privately financed facility near Olympic Stadium in the city’s east end is set to open this season.
The report said Gillett’s company and Saputo informed MLS of their interest in a letter on March 12.
MLS issued a statement later Wednesday to confirm the interest.
"Montreal is a market we are evaluating for a potential expansion team in Major League Soccer," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "We announced in November that we have had discussions with the Saputo family about expansion in Montreal and we have subsequently met with representatives of the Gillett Entertainment Group.
"Our policy is that we do not comment on the specifics of expansion discussions."
Having added Toronto FC last season, MLS will increase to 14 teams this year with the San Jose Earthquakes. Next year it will add Seattle with Philadelphia set to join in 2010.
Gillett became majority owner of the Canadiens in 2001. In 2007, he teamed with Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks to purchase soccer giant Liverpool and a few months later became majority owner of the Gillett-Evernham NASCAR team.