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The View from the North: Silence speaking volumes in Toronto?

Sometimes the loudest thing to hear is the silence.

That is especially the case, when it comes to the rumored Toronto expansion franchise in the NWSL. Despite lots of whispers from outside the city that Toronto could be in line for entry into the league next year, no one in Toronto will speak on record.

Keep in mind that the Toronto soccer community has some of the loosest lips on earth. With plenty of media interested to provide a willing ear, and a great deal of conflicting agendas looking to get their perspective out, it isn’t hard to find things to write about in Canada’s biggest city.

Which is what makes the lack of voices so intriguing. As the one insider that was willing to talk to The Equalizer off record said, the lack of chatter likely means something is up. After all, the last time Toronto acquired a soccer team (Toronto FC in 2006) a similar calm before the storm was found.

We must be careful not to claim it a done deal, because it isn’t, but increasingly it seems like Toronto could be part of the first wave of league expansion, with the team launch times to help promote the 2015 World Cup.

The scuttlebutt is that they will join the league as part of a Canadian 1-2 punch, with Vancouver (we will have more on the Vancouver situation next week). SI’s Grant Wahl had tweeted about this as well.

There is a certain logic to putting a team in Toronto. It would be the league’s largest market and would instantly put women’s club soccer on the radar of Canadian sports media. Although the Canadian market is much smaller than the USA’s, the experience of Canadian involvement in MLS tells us that it can be a lucrative market for American leagues to integrate.

A national TV deal in Canada would likely prove easier to gain. After all, Canada is a country of just 34.5-million, but with seven dedicated all-sports networks, all of which are required by law to show a certain amount of Canadian programming.

And all this goes without mentioning the biggest elephant in the room – the 2015 World Cup. There has never been more support for women’s soccer in Canada that right now and that interest is likely to grow in the next couple years. Investors are more than ever willing to take the risk.

But, who would be those investors? The obvious answer would be Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC. That company was recently purchased by two giant telecommunication companies, Bell and Rogers (Rogers owns the Toronto Blue Jays). Normally bitter competitors, the two joined forces for one reason: to gain control of the biggest sports properties in Canada and therefore control the distribution of that content across their multitude of media platforms.

Under previous ownership, MLSE indicated several times that they were not interested in buying a women’s soccer team. However, you can safely ignore those past comments. As the previously mentioned source said, “everything is out the window with new ownership.”

For two companies that are worth an estimated combined value of $200-billion, the cost of a NWSL team is almost inconsequential. Yet, the content such a team would generate along with having a established association with the women’s game in time for Canada 2015 is invaluable.


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