USL/TOA Saga……the Latest
As our friend Brian Quarstad at Inside Minnesota Soccer reported yesterday, posturing and retractions were the items of the day.
Here is what I can report today:
The inevitability around a breakaway league is building. But not all eight clubs that were on the initial TOA release are guaranteed to split from USL and join a new league. Also, the possibility of more current USL-1, USL-2 or PDL sides joining a new TOA league is still in play.
I am told though that Vancouver and Miami in particular have already begun preparing for the inevitability of a new league. The dueling press statement of yesterday would confirm what I have learned about the Whitecaps even if they tried to walk it back slightly later in the day.
A new league could be strong because of the markets represented, if the TOA can keep each of the eight markets on the initial press release of August 31st. Miami and Atlanta are both top 10 US metropolitan areas, while Montreal and Vancouver are the 2nd and 3rd largest metro areas in Canada. Tampa, St Louis and Minnesota also represent top 25 metropolitan areas in the US. The TOA markets have great potential TV upside, something I have been assured the owners seek to exploit.
If the USL loses Miami, Montreal and Vancouver, it’s largest remaining exclusive market would be Cleveland. (Keep in mind USL-1 will be in New York city next year but that is a shared market with MLS) However, the USL may move a PDL or USL-2 team from similarly large or even larger markets up to the First Division to replace the outgoing teams.
I can also report that MLS Commissioner Don Garber has played a supportive role in the TOA’s attempts to have their grievances dealt with favorably by the USSF. I am told Garber was perfectly objective in the “summit” meeting called by Sunil Gulati earlier this month, but left the meetings persuaded by the TOA point of view.
Rumors have been abound in the last few days that the TOA is setting up to either be MLS2 or a new MLS Reserve League. The indications I have been given would rule this possibility out for next season, although with Garber now taking an active interest in the TOA’s dispute with USL, some sort of working relationship between a new league and MLS seems likely.