Given the launch of the Canadian Premier League, CONCACAF says it does not see the "exceptional circumstances" needed to sanction Ottawa Fury FC playing in the U.S.-dominated USL.
The Fury found themselves in limbo this week when CONCACAF, the governing body of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, told the Canadian Soccer Association it would not sanction Ottawa playing in the USL in 2019.
That news came as a shock to Fury executives who said they had already received a green light from the Canadian Soccer Association and the U.S. Soccer Federation. Canada Soccer confirmed it had given its OK, but was awaiting approval from its U.S. counterpart before taking the matter to CONCACAF.
CONCACAF didn’t wait, however.
"Under international sanctioning rules, clubs that are affiliated to an association may only join competitions in another association’s territory under exceptional circumstances," the confederation said in statement Thursday. "For the sanctioning of such play in our region, approval must be given by CONCACAF and FIFA."
"As it stands to date, we do not see exceptional circumstances, given the launch of the Canadian Premier League (CPL) for the 2019 season," CONCACAF added.
The confederation said it "clearly advised" Canada Soccer of its concerns in the matter in the fall. That’s news to the Fury, who have already sold 1,500 season tickets and have signed a dozen players for next season.
There was no such sanctioning problem last year when both Ottawa and Toronto FC 2, along with 31 America teams, played in the USL. But that was before the CPL came on the scene.
TFC 2 is moving into the new USL Division III for the league’s inaugural 2019 season, leaving Ottawa as the lone Canadian team in the USL.
The CPL kicks off in April with teams in seven cities.
Ottawa had been widely expected to be the CPL’s eighth team. But the Fury, while saying it supported the idea of a Canadian league, said in September that it planned to stick with the tried-and-tested USL. At least for the time being.
Ottawa left the North American Soccer League for the USL in 2017. In joining the USL, the Fury negotiated an agreement that allows it to exit with proper notice to join the CPL.
The latest move by CONCACAF, whose president is former Canada Soccer boss Victor Montagliani, appears to be a bid to ensure that the CPL takes centre stage in 2019.
Canada Soccer and CONCACAF both back the CPL. And CONCACAF is clearly willing to play the heavy to remove the USL from the picture on this side of the border.