Montreal move one step closer to first MLS campaign

LOS ANGELES — The final whistle of MLS Cup 2011 brought the Montreal Impact one step closer to playing in North America’s top division. Once the confetti was blown off the field Sunday night and the lights were turned off at the Home Depot Center, it was time to turn the soccer world's attention from Southern California to Quebec.

Several executives of the club were in LA throughout the week to attend league meetings with topics ranging from club administration to marketing and ticket sales. Executive vice president Richard Legendre led many of Montreal’s discussions this week.

“The MLS Cup is always a special time to hold meetings with the other teams,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve had good talks on different levels. We were invited as guests last year, but this was our very first meeting as an official MLS club. We’re honored to be part of the family.”

Legendre made the trip down to California with club president and owner Joey Saputo, sporting director Nick De Santis and a few members of the marketing and sales departments.

While the conversations were fruitful, there was also the feeling of inclusion for the longtime second-division club that is now ready to play with the big boys.

“It was heartwarming to see our new logo on one of the flags here,” Legendre admitted. “What I like about these meetings is that we can have open discussions with the other clubs, and everyone here has been very open to share opinions and ideas.”

The feeling was mutual. With only a few months before the Impact’s kickoff in MLS, Legendre said that the other clubs were very curious about his team’s progress.

“Despite our numerous challenges, I was happily surprised about the reception that we’ve received from the other clubs,” he said. “They have a positive perception of the city of Montreal as well as the team. They’re also curious about the popularity of soccer in the province of Quebec.”

The league-wide meetings also revealed a willingness on the Impact’s part to contribute to the league’s development and bring a new flavour. Through its cultural diversity, Legendre thinks, Montreal — the city and the club — can create a special link between Europe and North America.

“I think we can help create a solid relationship between the two continents,” he claimed. “We’ve built solid partnerships with European clubs such as Fiorentina and AC Milan and we’ve noticed that they’ve become more and more interested with the MLS.”