Montreal ramping up fast for jump to MLS next season
MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact are gearing up for a busy eight months as they prepare for their inaugural season in Major League Soccer next spring. Since the official announcement in May 2010, a lot has changed both on the field and inside the Saputo Stadium offices.
Prior to the team’s series of five consecutive home games, executive vice president Richard Legendre and chief business officer Claude Pinard discussed the club’s progress as they make their way up and forward toward MLS.
Along with members of the club’s administration, Legendre and Pinard have visited more than 10 teams across the league in the past 14 months and have been humbled by the overall reception.
“They’re genuinely happy to see us join their ranks,” Legendre told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re partners in the same league, and competitors on the field, which is definitely benefiting the newer organizations that joined the league in the past three years.
“We’ve been in ‘MLS mode’ since last September, and we’ve even started a league pool to get the staff to know more about the teams and the players.”
Out of all the teams he’s visited, Legendre admits he very much enjoyed visiting Seattle, the LA Galaxy, Toronto and Philadelphia.
“We hadn’t heard much from Philadelphia to be honest,” he added, “but we were impressed by the management team as well as the stadium.”
Legendre also admits that he was relieved after confirming major sponsorship deals with BMO and TV deals with the Quebecor Group. However, the Impact exec was a bit less enthusiastic about his last announcement concerning the state of the Saputo Stadium.
Two weeks ago, Legendre confirmed that the stadium would not be ready in time for the start of the 2012 season. The team will therefore play its first home game at Olympic Stadium, just down the road from their usual home field.
With its 66,000 capacity, Legendre is confident “The Big O” will present a good opportunity to get more fans involved for First Kick 2012. When asked about the possibility of starting the season away from home, as Sporting Kansas City did this season while Livestrong Sporting Park was completed, Legendre admitted that idea briefly cross their minds.
“We’ve thought about it, but not too much, to be honest,” he said. “From a sporting point of view, it would be hard for the team and players to start the season away from home for such a long period of time.”
From a corporate side of things, Pinard has had his share of meetings. Along with Legendre, he has organized many sessions with local small businesses interested in partnering with the club. Referring to these meetings as an “MLS 101 class,” he’s been fairly satisfied with the responses received by the entrepreneurs.
“When we start talking about next season, you see that there is a sense of pride attached to joining the MLS,” Pinard told MLSsoccer.com. “Entrepreneurs and small business want to be part of this adventure. We’ve also realized that the next generation of entrepreneurs have played soccer in their youth, so they understand perfectly."
Next up for the Impact will be Saturday's unveiling of the club's official logo for the 2012 season.