Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vancouver to MLS in 2011... News from Garber and Derby County

Well, the worst kept secret in the history of North American soccer was finally revealed yesterday. Vancouver will join the MLS in 2011.

While I'm really happy Vancouver will move forward to "big league soccer" and continue to grow, it still kinda bothers me that it worked out to be a process of elimination. Seven cities, all the way down to four, with two spots open. From the beginning, Vancouver's bid led the way. It's just a shame, that - for example - they didn't beat out Miami, or have a better bid-book than Montreal. I asked MLS Commissioner Don Garber if he had any regrets about all the bids dropping out and not making a decision far sooner than now. He said that time was needed for the process. I say, what else is he supposed to say? I truly believe that had Garber made a decision (say around the MLS Cup in November), then the league would've come across a bit more professional (from a soccer/expansion bid-operations standpoint), and a little more rich (2 franchises at that time would have netted $80 million).

In the end, Vancouver won via last-man standing. The way things shook down, it looked more like the MLS desperately needed Vancouver... far more than Vancouver needed Major League Soccer.

Seven cities, down to four, with three of the four facing big questions. Meaning, the other city selected with the least amount of uncertainty will be chosen. All that being said, Garber basically confirmed that Portland will be announced on Friday (March 20). When I asked Garber about the rumblings coming from Portland, he grinned and said, "Portland remains a viable option...," and then quietly giggled like a little school-girl.

Some of the other things that came up on Wednesday...

- Nobody appeared to care to ask Don Garber how much Vancouver paid for their franchise. The MLS long stated that the $40 million expansion fee was non-negotiable. Montreal and Joey Saputo basically said, "Hey Garbs, you're crazy." Miami and Atlanta bailed because of the fees. Because I felt Vancouver really had the ball in their court, I figured they could have offered the MLS a Starbucks gift-card. No... not to be. $35 million was paid. Vancouver saves $5 million from the original demands.

- Garber says that Montreal remains a possibility down the road... but I really get the sense he dislikes Joey Saputo. Saputo and Montreal called him out. I don't think the commish will forget that.

- All this talk about the franchise not going with the name "Whitecaps" is crap. The name will live. It sounds like the MLS will try and stay away from it (ties to NASL, USL, etc...) for the time being. But at the end of the day (figure of speech, actually months from now), it will certainly be Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

- Vancouver co-owner and former Yahoo! President and COO Jeff Mallett is an incredibly nice guy. He stopped to chat with anybody and everybody. He also promised to join Full-Time in the near future. But Mallett revealed some other big news. He's now one of the newest owners at Derby County of the English League Championship. Of course Calgary billionaire and CBC's Dragon's Den panelist W. Brett Wilson is a part of Derby's ownership group. Mallett wasn't certain, but he thinks the club may now be completely owned by Canadians. The relationship between Derby and the Whitecaps could definitely be something to look for down the road.

- Vancouver's other co-owner and soccer saviour Greg Kerfoot is still unbelievably mysterious.


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