Edmonton getting team in resurrected NASL
Last Updated: 1st December 2009, 2:22am
- David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy drills a shot on goal during a 2008 international friendly between the Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps at Commonwealth Stadium. (SUN MEDIA FILE PHOTO)
A new Edmonton professional soccer team will emerge from the wake of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The team, Sun Media has learned, will play as the second coming of the Edmonton Drillers in the second coming of the North American Soccer League.
The Whitecaps will join Toronto F.C. in Major League Soccer in 2011. And an Edmonton team, it is expected to be announced within days, has been granted a franchise to replace the Whitecaps in the freshly-named NASL founded by teams breaking away from the USL — including the Whitecaps and theMontreal Impact.
The Edmonton team will join the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Crystal Palace Baltimore, Miami F.C., Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Minnesota Thunder, St. Louis Soccer United and Montreal in the league which will begin play in April with Vancouver involved for just the one season before Edmonton replaces the Whitecaps franchise.
When the Whitecaps were accepted to join Major League Soccer for the 2011 season, team president Bob Lenarduzzi said he believed the club needed to put together a pro development team and suggested Edmonton as the most obvious place to put it.
The franchise’s management and financial backing is believed to come from the group that produced last summer’s international match at Commonwealth Stadium featuring Everton from the English Premier League and River Plate of Argentina, which drew an announced crowd of 15,800.
Backers Tom and Dave Fath, Bruno Mastroprimiano and Mel Kowalchuk took a major bath on the game. They are believed to have lost an estimated half million dollars in the venture, which was put together without a great deal of lead-in time and with $40 to $105 ticket prices for two teams not on the world’s A list.
Sun Media has learned the Fath Brothers, through Kowalchuk’s guidance, made an offer to purchase the Whitecaps last April with the intention of bringing this version of the team, not the MLS expansion team, to Edmonton for 2011.
Tom Fath and brother Dave head up Fath Industries, which also includes O’Hanlon Paving, and are believed to be the majority owners of the new team.
The Everton-River Plate project was put together by Kowalchuk, the longtime GM of the Edmonton Trappers baseball club.
Kowalchuk was previously involved in several soccer ventues here, including the Canadian Soccer League, the Edmonton Drillers of the National Professional indoor league, and, more recently with a four-team project of indoor doubleheaders in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
Kowalchuk is expected to be GM of Edmonton’s new NASL team.
Edmonton has hosted several major international soccer successes, led by the Women’s U-19 World Championships, which sold out Commonwealth Stadium for the Canada-USA final — an event FIFA president Sepp Blatter called «ballistic.»
Edmonton also drew the largest crowds in Canada for the 2007 FIFA U-20. Brazil drew 51,937 in a game against Canada in their last stop on the way to the USA ’94 World Cup.
World Cup qualifying games at Commonwealth have drawn crowds ranging from 10,000 to 40,000, and a game featuring David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy drew 37,104 two years ago.
It’s believed the new Edmonton team would begin play in a smaller venue, supplemented by some feature games against major international teams at Commonwealth Stadium.
There’s also been a long list of failed pro soccer teams here, including the likes of the Black Gold, Eagles, Brickmen and Aviators outdoor teams and two previous incarnations of the Drillers indoor squad.
Unlike those teams, this project might have a chance because of the Fath brothers backing, an intelligent start-up plan with more than a full year to organize, and having first-hand knowledge of some of the city’s past soccer horror stories.