Mississauga’s huge soccer community optimistic city will get a pro team
Published October 14, 2021 at 12:17 pm
Members of Mississauga’s huge soccer community who’ve been pushing for a Canadian Premier League (CPL) expansion team have had their hopes reignited now that the city is revisiting plans to build a major stadium.
Rob Ditta, co-founder of Sauga City Collective (SCC), formed in 2017 in an effort to have Mississauga included in the CPL’s inaugural season eight-team lineup in 2019, said soccer groups in the city are excited once again to be having conversations about a new stadium and the possibility of a pro team.
“From the very beginning, we’ve done our best to remain present of mind with CPL officials, and the community in general, and they’ve continued to interact with us regularly,” said Ditta. “They know what our goal is and they’ve always been willing to work with us as well as with city officials to discuss the possibilities and potential.
“A new stadium and club to represent Mississauga in a national league would be something truly special if it’s done correctly,” he continued. “Mississauga has always been a soccer city. The number of people registered in league programs, academies, playing on local fields, at indoor facilities, is enormous and represents the love of the sport by the people who call this place home.”
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“If (Brampton) can get a cricket stadium, I’m sure we can get a soccer stadium. And we can be the twin cities; all the cricket can go on up there and all the soccer can go on down here.”
— Mark Guilherme (@MarkEightThree) September 30, 2021
The CPL, Canada’s primary national soccer league, features eight teams competing in five provinces. Teams close to Mississauga include defending champion Forge FC (Hamilton) and Toronto’s York United FC, with an Ottawa club rounding out Ontario’s complement of three squads.
The league, in which each team plays 28 regular-season games between April and October followed by playoffs, is considering expansion at some point.
CPL commissioner David Clanachan has said publicly on several occasions the league plans to expand gradually to 16 clubs by 2026, when Canada will be the site of 10 FIFA World Cup games as part of the United States-hosted tournament.
He has also stated that the biggest issue for potential expansion locations is a lack of suitable facilities.
Current CPL stadiums range in seating capacity from 5,100 for FC Edmonton to 10,000 in Winnipeg and Hamilton, and 24,000 in Ottawa. York United FC’s facility seats 8,000.
In addition to Mississauga, Ontario sites on the CPL expansion radar include Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, Durham and Barrie.
Ditta said Mississauga’s chances of getting a CPL team have always hinged on the city’s willingness to build a stadium to meet league standards and having an ownership team capable of operating the club.
Two weeks ago, Mississauga City Council agreed to once again look at the possibility of building a major soccer stadium that could host large national tournaments and would be a potential sports tourism gold mine.
City of Mississauga staff, which was to further study the idea back in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, is now revisiting the matter after discussion with several councillors who are strongly in favour of bringing such a sports venue to town.
Beyond the tourism and financial benefits, they say, Mississauga’s soccer community badly needs a landmark facility. If plans move forward, the stadium would be built on City-owned land off of Ninth Line in the northwest corner of Mississauga.
Ward 4 Councillor John Kovac, who along with Ward 9’s Pat Saito introduced a motion at Council in April 2018 to study the feasibility of building a major soccer stadium, said he’s cautiously optimistic about both a stadium and CPL expansion team.
“Some momentum (for a CPL team) was lost due to the pandemic, but I’m hopeful,” said Kovac, adding he’s aware of CPL’s continued interest in Mississauga as an expansion site. “Soccer is very popular in Mississauga…and (getting a CPL team) would be a unique opportunity.”
Ditta said Mississauga’s soccer community is excited about talk of a new stadium. That conversation has been “on-again, off-again” since the summer of 2017, he noted, adding SCC has been one of the driving forces behind the push, along with several councillors.
“We’re very happy to see this conversation back on the docket and being discussed openly,” said Ditta, adding a multi-purpose stadium would likely be the best way to proceed given the costs involved.
As for a CPL team coming to Mississauga, Ditta said it would do wonders for the city.
“As a city, we tend to look east (to Toronto) for validation. This would be an identity-defining moment for the city.”
City councillors agreed earlier that if Mississauga is to move forward with a new stadium, it must approach the Ontario government soon in order to secure provincial sports and tourism grants to pick up most of the tab.
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