TORONTO — The commissioner of the Canadian Premier League says the new pro soccer circuit is prepared to launch with seven teams, but will search for an eighth.
Ottawa had been expected to fill out the eight-franchise roster for the inaugural season but the owners of Ottawa Fury FC announced last week that they would continue in the United Soccer League in 2019.
"We’re still chasing that eighth team and we have a couple options in the mix," CPL commissioner David Clanachan said in an interview on the CPL website. "We are fully equipped to launch with seven clubs and our schedule will still be strong and varied."
CPL teams announced for next year are HFC Wanderers FC (Halifax), York City 9 (suburban Toronto), Forge FC (Hamilton), Valour FC (Winnipeg), FC Edmonton, Cavalry FC (Calgary) and Pacific FC (Victoria).
The issue of where Ottawa plays may still be up for discussion given the Canadian Soccer Association, which is firmly on board with the CPL, has final say when it comes to sanctioning teams in Canada.
Mark Goudie, president and CEO at Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group which owns the Fury, says the Ottawa franchise has kept in regular contact with the CSA about its soccer journey.
"CSA has sanctioning authority and we’re sanctioned to play in the USL in 2019," said Goudie. "But that’s a thing that all of the professional teams in Canada are subject to."
Asked for comment on the issue of sanctioning the Fury, a CSA spokesman said only: "Canada Soccer is continually working through the due diligence of proper sanctioning requirements and will provide an update once sanctioning procedures have been completed."
Hardly a confirmation.
Clanachan also fired a warning shot in his in-house Q and A. He suggested that soccer in Canada is better served by a domestic soccer league rather than ones controlled by U.S. interests.
"There are very few countries in the world that operate their own, independent domestic professional league while also permitting two different foreign leagues to operate inside their borders," Clanachan said in the interview.
"To reach our potential in world soccer, we as Canadians need to become the agent of our own soccer future. In the USL, the focus of control is based in the U.S. and Canadian interests will always be subjugated by the interests of American soccer. This would continue to leave us dependent and underdeveloped as a soccer country."
Clanachan said the league was talking to possible owners in St. John’s, N.L., Moncton, Montreal/Laval, Quebec City as well as Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, the Niagara Region and the Durham Region in Ontario.
He also said the league had interest from "multiple parties" in Ottawa.
As for the Fury, Clanachan said the CPL was willing to let the USL team "operate under the exact same circumstances as they are now." He said the league was surprised by the Fury’s decision to stay in the USL.
"We felt like we presented a series of accommodations on a number of different things in order for Ottawa to feel confident about playing in the Canadian Premier League. We did everything we could to help them feel welcome."