CONCACAF says it makes sense for Ottawa Fury FC to switch leagues

CONCACAF says it does not see the "exceptional circumstances" needed to allow Ottawa Fury FC to keep playing in the U.S.-dominated USL.

Fury had decided against joining new Canadian soccer league

Ottawa Fury's Tucker Hume wins the battle for the ball over Toronto FC's Jason Hernandez during the Fury's 2-1 win in their Canadian championship semifinal. The Fury's future is in limbo as it waits to see which league it will play in next season. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Given the launch of the Canadian Premier League, CONCACAF said it does not see the "exceptional circumstances" needed to allow Ottawa Fury FC to keep playing in the U.S.-dominated United Soccer League.

The Fury found themselves in limbo this week when CONCACAF, the governing body of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, told the Canadian Soccer Association it would not sanction Ottawa playing in the USL in 2019.

That news came as a shock to Fury e​xecutives who said they had already received a green light from the Canadian Soccer Association and the U.S. Soccer Federation to play its third USL season.

Canada Soccer confirmed it had given its OK, but was awaiting approval from its U.S. counterpart before taking the matter to CONCACAF.

CONCACAF didn't wait.

"Under international sanctioning rules, clubs that are affiliated to an association may only join competitions in another association's territory under exceptional circumstances," the confederation said in statement Thursday.

"As it stands to date, we do not see exceptional circumstances, given the launch of the Canadian Premier League (CPL) for the 2019 season."

The confederation said it "clearly advised" Canada Soccer of its concerns in the matter in the fall.

That's news to the Fury, who have already sold 1,500 season tickets and have signed a dozen players for next season.

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani is the former head of Canada Soccer. (Rebecca Blackwell, File/The Associated Press)

There was no such sanctioning problem last year when both Ottawa and Toronto FC 2, along with 31 America teams, played in the USL — before the CPL came on the scene.

TFC 2 is moving into the new USL Division III for the league's inaugural 2019 season, leaving Ottawa as the lone Canadian team in the USL.

The CPL kicks off in April with teams in seven cities.

Ottawa had been widely expected to be the CPL's eighth team.

But the Fury, while saying it supported the idea of a Canadian league, said in September that it planned to stick with the tried-and-tested USL for the time being.

In joining the USL, the Fury negotiated an agreement that allows it to exit with proper notice to join the CPL.

The latest move by CONCACAF, whose president is former Canada Soccer boss Victor Montagliani, appears to be a bid to ensure that the CPL takes centre stage in 2019.

Canada Soccer and CONCACAF both back the CPL.

And CONCACAF is clearly willing to play the heavy to remove the USL from the picture on this side of the border.