Season in the works

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

They are planning to push this ball forward cautiously.

Spurred by the 7,000-plus that showed up for the Winnipeg Alliance-Edmonton Drillers "showcase" match at the MTS Centre yesterday, the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League has decided to go ahead with plans for a real season.

"The Winnipeg Alliance is probably the reason we are moving forward a little quicker than we wanted because (Alliance owner) Bill Stewart and his group and the fans here in Winnipeg showed us what they can draw if we work real hard at it," CMISL president Mel Kowalchuk said after the owners and/or GMs of the four current franchises met before the doubleheader.

"We expected crowds Iike this in years three and four but not the first year. So Bill's certainly set the trend for all of us and we're very pleased."

Before they can go ahead, each club must secure a lease with their respective venues and another meeting is planned for Calgary later this month.

"The thing is, everybody else wants to do it but we don't want to do it to the point where we push it too far," said Stewart. "So we're probably looking at an abbreviated season.

"But there's a lot of work that we have to do as owners to ensure that we can move forward. The MTS Centre's been great to work with, but the bottom line is we need to sit down with them now and try to enter a lease that makes sense."

Yesterday's crowd prompted Stewart to push his partners.

"I'm absolutely impressed, absolutely blown away," he said. "I am absolutely convinced that this is a viable market. Being the last game here gave us an extra three weeks to get out there and sell and penetrate the soccer community. That really helped us."

On the other hand, both Calgary and Saskatoon drew 2,000, Edmonton about 3,500.

"We did discuss expansion a little bit," Kowalchuk said. "We do have teams that are interested but we're not sure we're going to permit them to play in our league with a full schedule or a modified schedule. We're thinking a new team coming in will have to showcase it because each one of us learned a lot (from showcase games).

"We might go with as many as five or six teams, but right now it's looking like it might be four."

Kowalchuk said interest has been expressed by six Eastern teams and two in the West, but did not identify them.

"This gives the kids something to look forward to," said the Alliance's Jordan Goetting. "When I grew up, we had the Winnipeg Fury, then nothing for the longest time ... So, it will be inspiring for a lot of the young kids."


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