Toronto FC’s Marco Delgado battles for the ball with Ottawa Fury FC’s Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, right, during the first half of Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto, Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ottawa Fury FC’s sanctioning battle with CONCACAF appears to be over - for the time being. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Ottawa Fury FC gets sanctioning OK to play in the United Soccer League in 2019

Ottawa Fury FC’s sanctioning battle with CONCACAF appears to be over — for the time being.

The Fury says it has been advised by the Canadian Soccer Association that it has been sanctioned by CONCACAF to play in the United Soccer League in 2019, pending approval by FIFA.

CONCACAF, which governs soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, had balked at giving the Ottawa club the green light to continue play in the U.S. league when a Canadian alternative — the new Canadian Premier League — will be available come April.

The Ottawa club, the only Canadian team remaining in the USL, had turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for help. But a hearing wasn’t necessary with news that CONCACAF had changed its tune.

In a statement Friday, CONCACAF called the plan to go to CAS “unnecessary” and criticized the Fury for a public relations campaign it dubbed a “needless and misinformed distraction.”

But the statement did not explain the CONCACAF change of heart.

The seven-team CPL kicks off its 2019. The sanctioning approval could lead the way for the Fury to come on board the new league in 2020.

“Now that we’re sanctioned by CONCACAF, the U.S. Soccer Federation and Canada Soccer to play in USL Championship in 2019, we will accelerate preparations for the 2019 season,” Mark Goudie, president and CEO of the Fury’s parent Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, said in a statement.

“Too much negative energy has already been expended on this. I hope that we can now get back to supporting Canadian soccer and each other.”

The USL has already issued its 2019 schedule. Ottawa is slated to open play March 9 at the Charleston Battery with its home opener scheduled for April 6 against Nashville SC.

There was no sanctioning problem last year when both Ottawa and Toronto FC 2, along with 31 American teams, played in the USL. But that was before the CPL came on the scene.

TFC 2 is moving into the new USL Division III for the league’s inaugural 2019 season, leaving Ottawa as the lone Canadian representative in the USL first division.

Ottawa had been widely expected to be the CPL’s eighth team. But the Fury, while saying it supported the idea of a Canadian league, said in September that it planned to stick with the tried-and-tested USL at least for the 2019 season.

Ottawa left the North American Soccer League for the USL in 2017. In joining the USL, the Fury negotiated an agreement that allows it to exit with proper notice to join the CPL.

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