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MLS Adds 3rd Canadian Club – the Montréal Impact

Thursday 24th November 2011
This coming Wednesday, in what has become an annual happening over the past few seasons as Major League Soccer keeps growing in size, there will be a uniquely North American event taking place in the form of the MLS Expansion Draft .

The Montréal Impact, who have been playing in various leagues in the second tier of North American soccer since their founding in 1993 are about to enter into MLS as the nineteenth club in the League next season and will join fellow Canadian sides Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC who already play in the top flight of North American football. And it cost them $40 million in an expansion fee to the League for the honour.

The Impact will be able in this Expansion Draft process to pluck ten players of their choice in total off the rosters of the other eighteen MLS clubs to partially stock their squad for their upcoming debut next year. And before you ask how such a relatively crazy process could work you need to remember one simple thing about Major League Soccer that makes it just about unlike any other league in the world, and that is the fact that the league is a single entity league.

David Beckham for example did not technically sign with the LA Galaxy five years ago. He actually signed with Major League Soccer, of which the LA Galaxy is of course a part. His paycheques say “MLS” on them, not “Los Angeles Galaxy”. The League holds the rights to all of the players under contract and that is the structure that allows for “trades” of signed players between clubs that are not football transfers in the conventional sense. When Maurice Edu left Toronto FC and went to Glasgow Rangers in 2008 the $5 million transfer fee was paid to MLS by Rangers and not to Toronto
FC for example. The single entity structure also allows for collective bargaining and a salary cap.

So as part of their $40 million entrance fee Montréal gets to pick a few players that other clubs deem not worthy of protecting. Each current MLS club gets to protect eleven first team players and certain prospects and academy graduates are also exempt from selection. On top of that the Impact will be able to sign International players on Bosman's, sign players of their choice from their current squad and also take part in the US College draft next January. From these sources and from their own Academy they will try and stock their club with twenty five players for opening day in March.

The next question (for another post for another day) is who will be the 20th franchise? Much speculation surrounds the possible return of the New York Cosmos to the North American top flight. Pele, George Chinaglia, Kobi Jones and Eric Cantona among others have all been brought on board and it would not shock many MLS observers if some sort of news comes soon from the League on if the Cosmos are to be resurrected for 2013.

But to me the Montréal franchise coming to MLS is a very exciting development in its own right. With the distances between cities in North America there are few true derbies that exist in the conventional European sense of the word. But Montréal and Toronto have well over three hundred years of enmity and shared history (political, cultural and sporting) between them. And since Toronto FC came into existence in 2007 the rivalry between the two clubs has simmered nicely due to the clubs competing for the Canadian equivalent of the FA Cup, namely the Voyageurs Cup, which sees the winner become Canada's annual lone representative in the CONCACAF Champions League. In one memorable match in 2009 TFC had to beat Montréal by four goals to win the Canadian title and advance into the Champions League. After going down to the Impact by a goal early on Toronto replied with six unanswered goals to seal the first of three straight Canadian championships.

The cities are not great fans of one another, the clubs dislike each other and the supporters generally feel the same way. And with the relative proximity and the fact that supporters won't have to cross the border to get to the away match I feel that this derby might turn out to be one of the greatest, if not the single greatest rivalry in MLS in the coming years, due respect to the excellent rivalries that exist between Portland-Seattle-Vancouver.

So in a couple of days the Impact will start to finally take shape.

Bienvenue sur MLS Impact de Montréal

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Tim Drodge is a Toronto Canada based blogger who writes about all things Toronto FC of MLS at his blog http://viewfromthesouthstands.com . You can follow Tim on Twitter @bgnewf
Tim Drodge
Tim writes about all things Toronto FC of Major League Soccer on his blog "The View From The South Stands"

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