It's officially game on in Senators Sports & Entertainment's bid to land an expansion Major League Soccer franchise.
SSE owner Eugene Melnyk officially submitted an Ottawa bid Tuesday for one of two new teams to be awarded for the 2011 season. Earlier today, MLS president Mark Abbott confirmed seven cities are in the hunt for a franchise: Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal, Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis and Portland.
MLS currently has 14 teams but wants to grow that number to 18 by 2011. Seattle enters the league next season, with a Philadelphia franchise getting off the ground in 2010.
An MLS expansion committee and the league office will review the bids, with a decision on the two new franchises being made by early 2009 at the latest.
The Senators Sports & Entertainment bid also includes plans for a 30,000-seat soccer-first stadium, to be built adjacent to Scotiabank Place. Melnyk said his group has already attracted a broad level of community support.
"When we officially launched our bid on Sept. 16, I believed it was imperative that to bring an MLS team to Ottawa and build a stadium of this scope and calibre required, among other things, broad community support," said Melnyk, also the owner of the Ottawa Senators. "I know we have a strong operational management team and a solid business plan, and now we know the community is behind us."
Thousands of people have already shown their support for an MLS team in the capital at www.BringtheWorldtoOttawa.ca.
"We've had 7,000 supporters alone register on our website," said Melnyk. "Thirty one soccer clubs from the heart of our region have come on board, including Ottawa South United, one of the largest clubs in Canada. In addition, the Ontario Soccer Association and the Eastern Ontario Soccer Association, the governing bodies for soccer in Ottawa and the province, are giving us a vote of confidence."For more information about the Ottawa campaign or to show your support, log on to www.BringtheWorldtoOttawa.ca.