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    Mar 2009


    Default Impact, Whitecaps to play in new D2 league

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    The U.S. Soccer Federation's decision to form a second division will give the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact a league to compete in this season while calling a truce in a dispute between two soccer factions.

    The 12-club second division will consistent of teams from the United Soccer Leagues and newly formed North American Soccer League.

    Impact owner Joey Saputo called Thursday's announcement "a good compromise."

    "I think at the end of the day it makes a lot of sense to do it this way," Saputo said during a telephone conference call. "Are we completely satisfied? I think we are comfortable with it."

    Rachel Lewis, the Whitecaps' chief operating officer, said the new division is good for the game.

    "It's the right solution for soccer right now," Lewis said in an interview. "Right now we wanted to make sure there was a league to play in that was a viable league with strong teams and a good commitment to quality of play.

    "It's a positive step for our goal of growing the game in North America."

    The Whitecaps will join Major League Soccer in 2011.

    The USSF last week refused to sanction either the USL or NASL, saying both were unable to meet the minimum requirement of eight viable teams.

    Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, said both leagues made some concessions.

    "Everyone was willing to compromise in the end to make sure they meet the standards we were looking for, to make sure we had a viable and stable Division 2 setup," Gulati said during a telephone conference call from Chicago.

    "You put some of those differences behind you and you get on with it. That's essentially what happened."

    The Impact and Whitecaps were members of a group that broke away from the USL this fall to form the NASL. The former USL members were frustrated with how the league operated and had concerns over stability and viability.

    Montreal defeated Vancouver for the USL First Division championship last year.

    Saputo said the U.S. Soccer Federation helped mediate some of the issues.

    "I think it was important for the USSF to step in and to guide us," he said. "Sometimes when you are in the forest you don't necessarily see the trees.

    "The USSF brought some leadership to the table. They were able to make us see certain things that we didn't want to see before."

    The new second division will be divided into two, six-team conferences. Playing in the NASL Conference will be Vancouver, Montreal, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami and St. Louis. The USL Conference will consist of Austin, Minnesota, Portland (Ore.), Puerto Rico, Rochester and Tampa Bay.

    Teams from the two conferences will play each other. The schedule will be between 28 and possibly 34 games.

    "This agreement allows us to continue to develop the professional game in many important markets around the country, while at the same time working towards the long-term stability of Division 2 professional soccer," said Gulati.

    The Canadian Soccer Association said the new league is important for the development of the sport.

    "We look forward to working with this new league to promote professional soccer in Canada," Peter Montopoli, the CSA's general secretary, said in a release.

    The agreement is for the 2010 season only. The USSF said it will develop new standards for second division leagues.

    FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, wants any league playing in a country to be recognized by that nation's federation.

    The CSA is also expected to sanction the new league.

    MLS is considered the first division in the USSF.

    Saputo said the Impact will continue its attempt to bring a MLS franchise to Montreal.

    "It gives us time to put our ducks in order," he said. "If this allows us to continue to build the club until we are in the MLS. I think for us it's a step in the right direction."



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