SportsKingston Lays the Groundwork for Ottawa Soccer Success

Kingston Lays the Groundwork for Ottawa Soccer Success

Kingston Lays the Groundwork for Ottawa Soccer Success

Supporters of Ottawa’s newest pro soccer franchise can be forgiven for forgetting or overlooking the city’s most recent foray into the beautiful game. Ottawa Fury FC is set to join the North American Soccer League next summer – one tier above the Canadian Soccer League, which featured a remarkably successful Ottawa club in 2011.

Capital City FC advanced all the way to the CSL championship game in its inaugural season, drawing league-high attendance figures to Mooney’s Bay. As quickly as they rose, the club disappeared, effectively folding their operations after one summer. In the interim, a newly established pro team has shown soccer’s potential in Eastern Ontario, providing a valuable framework for the Fury.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m working in media relations this summer for Kingston FC, the team in question. That said, their early success goes beyond any potential bias or subjectivity. After mustering just four wins in 2012, their expansion season, Kingston is ensnared in a four-club race for the CSL’s top position, including two-time defending champion Toronto Croatia.

Guillaume Surot has scored 15 of Kingston FC's 42 goals on the season.
Guillaume Surot has scored 15 of Kingston FC's 42 goals on the season.

Their offensive output has far outstripped any other team – 42 goals in 13 contests is good for over three a game, with Guillaume Surot, the league’s top scorer, netting 15 of those. The club has a distinct international flair, with a Czech goalkeeper, a defender from Northern Ireland, British, Kenyan, American and Romanian midfielders and Surot, a French-born striker, all featured in the current starting lineup.

Kingston, renowned for its historic contributions to the game of hockey, has begun to take notice. A core group of fans has quickly bolstered the team’s attendance figures, with Kingston FC routinely drawing upwards of  500 fans at home. Here in Ottawa, with the CSL club’s success in mind, crowds 10 times that size are a clear possibility.

Canada’s men’s soccer team continues to flounder internationally, but club soccer has started to gain prominence here at home, filtering down from the top professional level. Since their inception in 2006, Toronto FC’s results have ranged from mediocre to outright embarrassing, but the club has laid the groundwork for further pro expansion across Canada. The Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact both hold Major League Soccer playoff positions; they’ve cultivated equally dedicated fan bases and command their fair share of airtime on national television.

TSN and Sportsnet’s coverage doesn’t really extend to the second rung of continental club soccer, the NASL, but Ottawa’s entry should be met with the same acclaim as teams on either side of the Canadian soccer pyramid. The Fury already has a successful franchise in the amateur Premier Development League, from which a few players could make the leap to the NASL team starting next summer. Solid ownership is essential to the success of any pro franchise; while Ottawa CFL fans are in good hands with junior hockey mainstay Jeff Hunt, the soccer team should experience similar stability under John Pugh, the Fury’s longtime owner, who’s working in conjunction with Hunt as part of the Ottawa Stadium and Entertainment Group.

With a resplendent 24,000-seat facility in the renovated Frank Clair Stadium and an official support group on board – the Bytown Boys Supporters Club, formerly affiliated with Capital City FC – the Fury are at the forefront of NASL expansion, with the eight-team league set to add five new franchises in the coming years. Ottawa will join FC Edmonton as Canada’s second-tier soccer representation; if fellow franchises in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Kingston are any indication, Canadian fans will likely follow.

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