Soccer league confirms Ottawa franchise

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:06 AM ET

OTTAWA - The beautiful game will have a beautiful new home at Lansdowne Park.

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group confirmed Monday that the city has received an expansion franchise in the upstart North American Soccer League.

OSEG partner John Pugh, CEO and owner of the Ottawa Fury, will act as president of the NASL franchise. The club is scheduled to hit the pitch in 2013, but 2014 is more realistic with legal challenges delaying the Lansdowne redevelopment project.

“What a great day this is for soccer fans in Ottawa. This is a team we can finally call our own,” Pugh told a press conference at Lansdowne, which will accommodate 24,000 fans for NASL games. “Professional soccer, the world’s game and the beautiful game, has arrived in Ottawa.

“This is a city and a fan base that has been waiting (for professional soccer). We have a vibrant soccer community in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec with 65,000 soccer players, not counting the huge supporting cast of coaches, referees and volunteers. There’s nothing like attending a local professional game or having a local professional role model to inspire a budding young player.”

The NASL is a Division II men’s pro league with Canadian teams in Montreal and Edmonton. The league — in its second year — also has squads in Carolina, Minnesota, Tampa, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Puerto Rico.

Next year, the Montreal Impact will move into the MLS and that franchise will be replaced by San Antonio.

“The NASL is proud to include Ottawa in our league,” said commissioner David Downs. “Some of the most successful and well-operated soccer teams are in Canadian cities and we think Ottawa will prove to be no exception.”

OSEG’s Jeff Hunt said ticket pricing will be equivalent to what his Ottawa 67’s now charge — in the $15 range.

Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association, said this will be a strong league for fans.

“This is an excellent league,” said Montopoli, an Ottawa resident. “This is a league in Canada and the United States that’s required as a developmental league in order for us to give more opportunities to expand player development.

“This gives them the chance to progress through the system at the highest levels possible.”

Naming the franchise will be part of a contest tied to the CFL expansion club.


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