You can officially add soccer to the list of professional sports in Winnipeg.

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This article was published 14/5/2018 (1292 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

You can officially add soccer to the list of professional sports in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg is expected to be one of between eight and 10 teams to make up the Canadian Premier League — a Tier 1, FIFA-sanctioned soccer association that, if all goes to plan, should begin play next spring. Currently, Canada does not have its own pro soccer league.

The Winnipeg Football Club, which operates the CFL’s Blue Bombers, will own the new team and plans to unveil "the entire identity of the team," June 6, president and CEO Wade Miller told the Free Press Monday.

The announcement will include the team’s name, colours, logo and ticket prices. Miller said it has been a lot of hard work to get a professional soccer team to Winnipeg and he’s looking forward to finally seeing that effort pay off.

"It’s been a lot to work through over the years and we’re getting to the stage now where different teams across the country will be announcing and becoming a part of this new league," he said. "It’s a big step forward for Canada soccer and local soccer, as well."

Calgary, Halifax, Surrey, B.C., Edmonton, Moncton, Regina and Saskatoon are other cities rumoured to be joining the CPL, expected to be a developmental league for Canadian coaches, players, officials and administrators. The goal is to have teams playing from coast to coast.

"It’s a league for Canadians, by Canadians and it gives Canadian soccer players the opportunity to be playing professionally, to help get the men’s professional team back to the status of qualifying for the World Cup," Miller said. "It gives Manitoba youth soccer players the opportunity to play on a professional soccer team and there will be kids from Manitoba playing on this team next year."

Details on how many players will be on each roster, as well as the number of Canadians required to be on each team is still being worked out. However, Scott Mitchell, CEO of Canadian Soccer Business, a Canada Soccer Association-approved entity charged with managing the league’s assets and marketing strategy, said in a Toronto radio interview last month that in order to field competitive teams, rosters will include international players.

That would certainly make sense if the league is expected to keep pace with the likes of Major League Soccer clubs such as Toronto FC or Vancouver Whitecaps. Though MLS and CPL are separate leagues, the two will compete against each other in the annual Canadian Championship.

Rumours about a team coming to Winnipeg surfaced last year, when it was announced that Hamilton and Winnipeg, in order to get the league formed, were officially sanctioned by the CSA. Though Miller seemed committed to the idea, nothing had been confirmed until now.

At the time of their approval by the CSA, the original projection was the league would begin sometime in 2018. That has since been pushed back to April 2019. The CPL began rounding out its leadership group earlier this year, including hiring David Clanachan, the former president and COO of Tim Hortons, as league commissioner.

Bringing a soccer team to Winnipeg should not only satisfy soccer fans here in the city, but, if successful, should help the Blue Bombers' bottom line too. Miller is constantly finding ways to build revenue streams, while also offering one of the league’s premier game-day experiences in the CFL.

The Bombers posted an operating profit of $5.1 million in 2017 but in their report warned about a potential drop this year. While soccer won’t help matters this season, it should boost revenues in 2019.

"So we’re going to have 15 more major events in the stadium every year and it’s an opportunity for people that aren’t currently utilizing the stadium — coming to football games or concerts — to be able to enjoy Investors Group Field," Miller said. "If you’ve seen it set up for soccer, it’s a beautiful pitch, as well."

Miller didn’t want to offer an estimate of the revenue a soccer team could generate, but he said the club did its due diligence before deciding to operate a team, including talking to other cities that have two clubs sharing one building. He also said he isn’t worried that having a soccer team will take business from the football club.

"We’ve got some good research locally and across the country, and we have spoken to other teams that have multiple teams in soccer or football or in other sports and there isn’t a ton of crossover with fans," he said. "We don’t get into something like this without doing a lot of work across the country and being prepared. So we’re looking forward to the announcement on June 6."

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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