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Atlético Madrid secures Ottawa CPL expansion team

LaLiga club Atlético Madrid has secured the rights to a Canadian Premier League expansion team, which will be based in Ottawa.

The as-yet-unnamed team is due to begin play in April 2020 at TD Place, the home of Canadian Football League team Ottawa Redblacks.

It was also confirmed that Ottawa businessman Jeff Hunt, a part-owner of the Redblacks, will serve as a strategical partner for Ottawa’s CPL club. An official unveiling will take place at TD Place on February 12.

“We are delighted to be part of such an exciting project in an amazing country,” said Atlético chief executive Miguel Ángel Gil Marín. “We would like to bring our expertise to a very strong and structured league and will work together with the CPL and the rest of the clubs to contribute to the growth of Canadian soccer. We want Ottawa soccer fans to be able to feel proud of belonging to the Atlético de Madrid family so we can start sharing our values with them.”

The move is a significant milestone for the CPL, which has long-coveted a team in the Canadian capital.  It additionally represents foreign investment from one of the most prestigious brands in global soccer and also means that the CPL will have a more balanced schedule in its second season with eight teams.

It is also Atlético’s second sister club in the region. In 2017, Atlético bought a major ownership stake in Mexican team San Luis Futbol Club and renamed it Atlético San Luis.

Former United Soccer League Championship team Ottawa Fury was poised to join the CPL in its inaugural season in 2019 but pulled out of the league at short notice. CPL executives had been in touch with Fury executives about potentially joining in the future but the team suspended operations in December after selling its USL franchise rights to Miami FC.

It has not been disclosed how much Atletico is paying for the Ottawa team. The league’s initial expansion fee was reportedly C$3m ($2.3m).

It is also unclear whether or not Ottawa will participate in the 2020 Canadian Championship.

“I’m extremely excited,” Hunt told the Ottawa Sun. “The planets really lined up. It’s a great day for soccer fans in Ottawa. Like a lot of people, I didn’t know if soccer was gone forever or if it was gone for a while. This wasn’t just a case of bringing soccer back to Ottawa, it was bringing back soccer with the brand of Atlético Madrid. It’s a huge coup for a second-year league like the CPL to get the kind of validation that comes with getting involvement from one of the greatest soccer clubs in the world.”

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