What kinda day is it? Flip a coin

If you’re the Vancouver Whitecaps, the coin came up the right way. Last night, they won a surely-dramatic coin flip against the Portland Timbers to stake their claim to the #1 pick in either the expansion draft or the SuperDraft, as they prepare to enter MLS next season.

If you’re a soccer fan in Hamilton or Ottawa, the coin is still in the air. Both of those cities have formalized their bids (hat tip to Ben) to enter the NASL, or whatever the second division of North American soccer will be called in the years to come.

I suddenly got flashes of a six-team Voyageurs Cup, with rowdy hordes of traveling support flitting between Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal, while out west, Vancouver and Edmonton would brew a nice, simmering pot of hostility for one another.

Then our Western colleague Lord Bob brought me right back down to Earth: “Oh, great. Ottawa and Hamilton are applying for NASL teams that will fold and set back the second division in Canada another ten years.” Much like I usually do, he comes by his cynicism honestly, recalling past failures such as the Edmonton Aviators.

But Edmonton itself could be turning over a new leaf. FC Edmonton, the new incarnation of second-division soccer in the City of Champions will, thankfully, be plying their trade at Foote Field — not cavernous Commonwealth Stadium — when they begin league play in 2011, which is a good sign. Hell, they’re playing an exhibition season in order to build up their roster and a fanbase. I’d say their odds of avoiding a single-season flameout are pretty damn good.

As for Ottawa and Hamilton… as I said, the coin is still in the air. Bob Young, the spearhead of the Hamilton bid, is also the owner of the CFL’s Tiger-Cats, and any soccer team would surely dovetail with that franchise. Would there be football lines on the team’s field? If a new stadium is built, where and when would that happen?

In Ottawa, the same questions linger, as that city desperately gropes for a new CFL franchise (talk about a history of leagues failing in a city…) Neil Malhotra is a local businessman who definitely has a passion for the beautiful game — but does he have the financial backing and political “pull” necessary to get the job done?

And then, of course, the biggest question — if you build it, will they come?

Despite the World Cup buzz and all of the carefully-edited clips of raucous crowds in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal lulling some into the belief that soccer has finally “gotten over the hump” here, the reality is, it hasn’t… yet.

The only way for us to know for sure that it has? When we have a handful of strong, healthy pro teams — with flourishing academies — in the first division, and another handful of solid, well-supported squads in the second division.

That could happen as early as 2013. You add Canada qualifying for the 2014 World Cup into that calendar year, and you’ve got one hell of a breakthrough phenomenon.

Then again, maybe these bids will fall apart. Maybe the success of Toronto FC will turn out to have been smoke and mirrors. Maybe we’ll find ourselves on the outside looking in, as usual, when the next World Cup rolls around.

Right now, the coin is still in the air.

Thankfully, we do have some good history with soccer-related coin flips.

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3 Responses to “What kinda day is it? Flip a coin”

  1. Serie_AHH Says:

    If soccer hasn’t turned a corner yet in the country it is surely on it’s way. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver the biggest cities in the country are getting there. Once these cities fully accept the sport (not saying every person has to follow it but that it is respected) the rest of the country will follow.

    While it might not be where some would like it to be yet, it seems that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  2. Well there is already the Fury in Ottawa, there is some soccer experience there. I think they know what they are dealing with and it is highly unlikely they fold after only 1 season.

    • Kevin Smith Says:

      The Ottawa Fury is barely a team though. They play at Algonquin College and get less than 400 fans per game, for about 8 games a year (plus playoffs).

      They get about the same attendance as the Carleton University Ravens…

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