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  1. Reading some posts on an online article at mlssoccer.com on the subject of expansion. One comment in particular caught my mind, one reader stated that MLS expansion to Canada was a mistake and that the league should have expanded instead to other American markets. Division One soccer, such as MLS is, has been around since 1967, with a brief absence from 1985 to 1995. The arrival of the United Soccer Association (USA) and the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in 1967 harkened the arrival of “top flight” soccer in America, however teams in these leagues were not limited to the United States, with two teams (Toronto and Vancouver) in the USA and a second Toronto team in the NPSL, three of the twenty-two Division One teams that year were based in Canada. Even when the two leagues merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968, two Canadian-based teams remained. In fact, over the 17-year history of the original NASL, only two seasons did not feature Canadian-based teams (1969 and 1970). From 1971 to its final season in 1984, at least two Canadian-based teams were in the league every season (three in 1979, 1980 and 1982; and five in 1981). Despite the limited success of the Canadian members of MLS, their predecessors in the NASL actually faired quite well. On field, both Toronto (in 1976) and Vancouver (in 1979) won the Soccer Bowl Championships; and attendance-wise from 1979 onward Vancouver was consistently in the top three of attendance every year. Since entering MLS, all three Canadian teams have drawn consistently above the league average in attendance, something that cannot be said for many of the US-based teams. With stadia around 20,000 seats, they all have been drawing pretty close to capacity on most nights. The Montreal Impact even recorded the largest crowd outside Seattle last season when 60,000 watched the home town team play David Beckham and the Galaxy. I am sure there are many around the United States who believe that their leagues should stay in their cities, after all, outside of the Toronto teams in the NBA and MLB, the rest of teams in the big three are US-based. As for the NHL, US claims to that league can be easily challenged, while being founded in 1919; the first US-based team in the Canadian league was the New York Rangers in 1927. Shortly thereafter, however US-based teams became the majority. The point of the matter is this; Canadian teams in “US” Division One leagues have a proud and honourable history. Far from diluting the product or depriving more deserving markets of a franchise, these teams have proven themselves worthy and important parts of the league. One need only to look at the positive impact of the Cascadia Rivalry (featuring Portland, Seattle and Vancouver) has had on the league, or the regional rivalries that are growing between Toronto and Montreal with the Northeastern teams to appreciate the value this Canadian Trio brings to the league. Prior to the series of expansions from 2007 to 2011, which included the three Canadian teams, it is very realistic to say that MLS was stagnating, if not declining. Since the injection of the new franchises over this period MLS has found new life. Far from criticizing the league’s decision to welcome Canadian markets, which have held their own in the league, questions should be raised about certain long-standing franchises that continually underperform. Perhaps the ones keeping deserving markets out of the league are these clubs and not the ones on this side of the border.
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