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Atlético reach deal to launch Canadian Premier League club

The team, based out of Canada’s capital, will begin play in less than three months.

SOCCER: JUL 20 NASL - New York Cosmos FC at Ottawa Fury FC
The new team will play its home games at TD Place on the Rideau Canal.
Photo by Steven Kingsman/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Weeks of speculation concluded with Wednesday’s official announcement that Atlético Madrid will own and operate a new Canadian Premier League side.

Atlético Ottawa will be the eighth team to join the two-and-a-half year-old Canadian league, and it represents another foray into the overseas market for its parent club. In March 2017, Atlético took 50 percent ownership of San Luís Fútbol Club and rebranded it as Atlético San Luís. The rebooted club gained promotion to Liga MX last summer and finished 15th in this season’s Apertura tournament.

“We are thrilled to welcome Ottawa as the Canadian Premier League’s eighth club and Club Atlético de Madrid as our newest owners of the Ottawa club,” CPL commissioner David Clanachan said. “We are very excited to launch the club with one of the world’s most iconic and successful soccer brands and look forward to them taking to the pitch for the 2020 CPL season.”

The CPL began play in April 2019, and its first season saw another Ontario side — Forge FC — win the North Star Shield after overcoming Calgary’s Cavalry FC in a two-legged final. Each team plays a 28-game schedule in a season which runs from April through October. The league is heavily committed to developing homegrown talent — not only must teams start at least six Canadian-born players per game, but at least three under-21 Canadians have to combine for 1,000 minutes in a season.

Though given comparatively little coverage in Spain, the Canadian press began to report earlier this month on Atlético’s involvement in forming an Ottawa-based club. The league refused to comment on any of the negotiations, but businessman Jeff Hunt — who also owns the city’s football team, the Redblacks — traveled to Madrid last week to help seal the deal. He will work as a “strategic partner” as the club gets off the ground.

Hunt’s Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group owned United Soccer League side Ottawa Fury FC up until last November. But that club did not receive clearance to continue playing into 2020 and was forced to dissolve. Ottawa Fury has since been absorbed by Miami FC.

Now, though, Atlético have stepped in quickly to ensure the Canadian capital gets a new team — one that will be formed primarily through Atleti’s international scouting reports.

“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,” Atleti CEO Miguel Ángel Gil Marín said.