It's officially the MLS offseason, and that means once again the addition of a new club to the league—ladies and gentlemen, give a warm welcome to the Montreal Impact. The Impact have been battling in North America's lower leagues for almost two decades, but they're now ready to take on the big boys of MLS in 2012.
Expansion teams haven't had too much success in their debut seasons in MLS history, but after an exciting couple of weeks in their first MLS offseason, the Impact seem serious at making a statement next year.
Why should you care? Here are six reasons to pay attention to this up-and-coming expansion team.
The Montreal Impact have one of the best fanbases in all of North America and will certainly help in expanding the reputation of MLS through their support.
The Impact have averaged more than 10,000 fans per game each season since 2005 despite playing in the lower leagues of American soccer, which shows the true fan commitment to the club.
Also, Saputo Stadium is undergoing a massive addition procedure that will allow an extra 7,000 seats for devoted fans. With a 20,000-person capacity and few other sports teams in the area, Saputo Stadium is expected to host somewhat of a Cascadian environment, and that is surely attention-worthy.
Impact head coach Jesse Marsch has already proven by his controversial drafting of Brian Ching that he is not afraid to play hardball and take risks in his first season at the helm. He seems confident and excited to be the leader of Montreal in their debut season, and he has certainly made a statement that he knows the business side of the game.
As a longtime fan of Marsch and a temporary fan of expansion teams, I can’t wait to see if his MLS legacy continues to be built over his coaching career.
As the New York Red Bulls have shown us this past year, it is simply not that hard to make the playoffs when you are in the Eastern Conference.
Even setting the league record in ties (NYRB and Chicago Fire) or failing to wake up until half of the season has passed (Sporting KC) doesn’t eliminate your chances of getting into the postseason, where anything can happen.
Also, with an unbalanced schedule that is weighted toward intraconference play, Montreal has a great chance to raise some eyebrows in 2012.
Yes, that’s right—the Montreal Impact have a great chance at playing in the CONCACAF Champions League next season, and it is all because of their location.
Instead of having to fight their way through multiple exhausting US Open Cup rounds, the Impact only need to play well in a few Canadian Cup games to lock up a bid in the CCL.
Since no MLS team has ever won the Champions League, all of the possible candidates always deserve our attention and support, including Montreal.
Thanks to the MLS Expansion Draft and a couple of interesting trades, Montreal is full of league veterans and intriguing young guns who are worth your attention. Barring any additional trades or moves, fan favorites such as Brian Ching, Donovan Ricketts and Tyson Wahl will all be wearing the royal blue next spring and will supply leadership to the new squad.
Young talents such as Zarek Valentin (I don’t know why Chivas let him go either), Bryan Arguez and Justin Braun will help balance out the squad and create a team that has a lot of potential at the MLS level. All this being said leads me to my final slide …
No, they will not be the most talented team in MLS next season, not by a long shot. But stranger things have happened in the wild and wacky league than an expansion club contending for a spot in the postseason.
After selecting a quality player with the top pick in the MLS Superdraft, adding a couple of big January signings and constructing a stadium addition that will make Montreal one of the best in-game environments on the East Coast, the Impact have every reason to get some respect in their first season.
The Impact are ready for the league, but are the other teams ready for the Impact? That question deserves our attention from now until March.