We have been following the developments surrounding the potential move of the Toronto Lynx to Hamilton with more than a passing interest because it could help to fill a major hole in Toronto FC's development structure. If the Lynx were to relocate to the steel city it would also see the club turn professional and become a member of USL Pro. As part of that move to USL Pro they would become a partner club for Toronto FC and provide playing time for the club's reserve players.
A better reserve league structure has been needed in MLS for sometime now and it has been quite clear with Toronto FC this season. The likes of Kyle Bekker, Emery Welshman, Quillan Roberts, or even Manuel Aparicio have been looking for playing time but with so few reserve league matches it has been hard to find.
The last update we posted on the proposed Lynx move was that things were in the waiting stages as the City of Hamilton looks into their request. The earliest date a verdict seemed possible was the October 23rd City Council meeting but that seems to be in doubt now.
According to a report in the Hamilton Spectator, the city remains on the fence about the best way to proceed with bringing professional soccer to the new Tim Hortons Field. It remains a priority for the city to have soccer at the venue along with the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger Cats but they are now presented with two options.
The primary tenants at the new stadium will be the TiCats and their ownership group have long been linked with NASL. Their owner, Bob Young, was previously part of the ownership group of the Carolina Railhawks and has made approaches to bring NASL to Hamilton but nothing has happened yet.
Problem is that when Young left Carolina the club was not in good shape and others were left to clean up the mess. Traffic Sports had to come in and save the day just to keep the club alive and considering Traffic's strong ties to NASL that move seems to have harmed Young's relationship with the league and could hinder his attempts to bring NASL to the city of Hamilton.
As the story from The Spec points out the window in which the Ticats ownership group were given exclusive rights to try and bring a team to the city was over long ago. They have been looking for an extension on that exclusivity deal but the city has not granted it. The Ticats are also still working on their own stadium deal with the city which was supposed to be completed some time ago but a number of delays have taken place.
The deal with the CFL team will almost certainly still get done in time for the 2014 season and the opening of the new season but the way the process has dragged out may not have helped the ownership group's relationship with the City.
With that in mind, the Toronto Lynx arrived on the scene presenting an alternative option to the City of Hamilton. They brought a proposal that would see a USL Pro team in the city for the 2014 season. It is a concrete proposal that included letters of support from USL, the CSA, the OSA, potential investors, and the Lynx themselves. That is something that the Ticats group cannot offer as all they have is the promise that they intend to bring soccer to the city.
As the Spec article points out the city of Hamilton now has a choice to make. Will they go with the concrete option of USL Pro or will they instead put their faith in Bob Young and the Ticats group once more and hope that they will finally get around to bringing professional soccer to the city.
With the Lynx group insisting that they would need an exclusivity deal in place before making a move to Hamilton it would mean the city giving them a similar deal to what they gave the Ticats group back in 2011. It would also mean the end of any hopes that might remain of NASL coming to Hamilton as no other soccer team would be able to call Tim Hortons Field as long as the Lynx were there.
The choice is now with the City of Hamilton, City Council, and the Public Work Committee to decide which way they will go. Time is running out though if they want to give the team time to put plans in place for the 2014 season. The time crunch might not matter though as The Spec story indicates that Public Works may not have their report complete before the end of October and in time for the October 23rd council meeting.
Things remain up in the air and time is running out to make a decision but for now all we can do is continue to watch and wait. Either way, it looks like professional soccer is coming to the city of Hamilton it is just a matter of what league and when. For the sake of TFC and their potential reserve team partnership hopefully the city goes with the proposal by the Lynx.