Ottawa Fury FC says CONCACAF is seeking to bar it from playing in USL

Ottawa Fury FC says CONCACAF has moved to block it from playing in the United Soccer League in 2019.

Mark Goudie, president and CEO of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group which is the Fury’s parent company, says it was advised of the CONCACAF move Wednesday by the Canadian Soccer Association.

The CSA told the Fury it had received a letter from CONCACAF, the regional confederation that oversees North and Central America and the Caribbean, that it was withdrawing its sanctioning to play in the USL. The CSA did not provide the Fury with a copy of the letter, Goudie said.

The move by CONCACAF, whose president is former Canada Soccer boss Victor Montagliani, appears to be a bid to ensure that the new Canadian Premier League takes centre stage in 2019. The CPL, which currently has seven teams, is set to kick off in April.

“This action by CONCACAF is unprecedented and simply wrong,” Goudie said in a statement. “Our lawyers have requested that CONCACAF immediately provide further details on the basis for this decision.

“We also understand that Canada Soccer will be seeking clarification as to the rationale for CONCACAF’s decision. In the event that CONCACAF does not immediately reconsider its position, Fury FC will take all steps — including legal proceedings — so as to ensure that it will be able to continue providing professional soccer to our loyal and new fans and supporters in a league of our choosing.”

The Fury said they had previously received sanctioning approval from both the CSA and the U.S. Soccer Federation. But CONCACAF has different plans, it seems.

A request for comment from the CSA and CONCACAF did not produce an immediate answer Wednesday evening.

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

“Where we are, we’re playing high-quality Division 2 soccer right now,” Goudie said at the time. “Our objective is to play professional soccer in Ottawa for the long-term at the best level that we can. And if that’s fulfilled through the CPL, which I really hope it is, that’s great. The question just becomes one of timing.”

The USL operated with 33 teams in 2018 with Ottawa and Toronto FC 2 the only Canadian teams. TFC 2 is moving to the new USL Division 3 in 2019.

The USL threw its support behind Ottawa in the wake of the CONCACAF move.

“It’s wrong,” league president Jake Edwards said in a statement. “Forcing a team to move from the league it is scheduled to play in — and wants to play in — three months before the season starts is unacceptable. Schedules have been set, players signed, season tickets sold.

“It’s not fair to anyone, including the 35 other teams in our league who are being negatively affected. Allowing this to happen would set a very poor precedent and we’ll do everything in our power to support the Ottawa Fury FC.”

CPL teams set to play next year are HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax), York City 9 (suburban Toronto), Forge FC (Hamilton), Valour FC (Winnipeg), FC Edmonton, Cavalry FC (Calgary) and Pacific FC (Victoria).

In September, Goudie also said the Fury did not want to keep changing leagues. 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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