The following has been contributed by John Bollwitt
Don’t roll your eyes about this post just yet because there is more to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC than just their current status as a member of the United Soccer League (USL).
Vancouver Whitecaps is a Canadian professional soccer team, founded in 1986. The team is a member of the USL First Division, the second tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.
They currently play at the Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, British Columbia, 7 miles east of downtown Vancouver. The team is currently coached by Teitur ÃžÃ³rÃ°arson. The team’s colors are blue and white.
The team was originally known as the Vancouver 86ers of both the A-League and, prior to that, the Canadian Soccer League (CSL). In addition to its men’s side the Whitecaps also field a women’s team, Vancouver Whitecaps Women, in the USL W-League, and two developmental teams: Vancouver Whitecaps Residency, in the USL Premier Development League, and the Whitecaps FC Prospects, in the Pacific Coast Soccer League. [wikipedia]
It seems to come up in conversation here and there that we need to actually attend a Whitecaps game, but there are those occasional TV broadcasts that we tune into from time to time. Honestly, I’m more of a “futbol” fan that I ever thought I would be, especially for being the American that I am.
In 1994, the World Cup came to the U.S, and I was instantly enthralled with what was going on. Most of the nation was paying attention like the good marketing from one of the big soda pop sponsors told us to be, but many seemed to think that was a nice month of soccer and then looked forward to the World Series and then the start of the NFL regular season.
Taking numerous trips to my grandparents’ house in Kansas City, there was always ads on Univision for these “futbol” games (“Esta Sabado!”), and occasionally my grandfather would watch these matches while taking a bit of a snoozer in his chair. Mexican play-by-play announcers are insane, and even though I could not understand everything they said, I was usually enthralled. This is where I attribute my current interest in the sport of soccer in general, appreciating a good match but not understanding everyone and everything there is to know of every league that exists across the globe.
Banking on that interest of the 1994 World Cup, the MLS was formed in 1993 with the FIFA World Cup in mind that following year, and the inaugural season started in 1996 with ten teams. Today, there are 14 teams that make up the league, and the MLS plans to expand to 18 by the year 2011.
As of last Friday morning, the Vancouver Whitecaps announced that they would be making a hefty bid to get into the MLS for that 2011 season, and they have some weight, by the name of Steve Nash, to throw behind it.
NBA superstar Steve Nash announced Friday that he has invested in the Vancouver Whitecaps as part of the team’s bid to bring Major League Soccer to the city.
The Whitecaps currently play in the United Soccer League First Division, one level below MLS, but are looking to become one of two expansion teams that will begin play in MLS in 2011.
Nash said he would not be a majority owner, but will put a significant amount of money toward the project. Nash will join current Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot.
“I am really excited to be a part of the Whitecaps organization and play a role in our application to join Major League Soccer,” said Nash. “This new partnership is a great fit for me. My passion for soccer and commitment to the community is well aligned with the Whitecaps vision.” [cbc]
The Whitecaps have already had some amazing matches with various MLS teams such as the L.A. Galaxy and Toronto F.C., none of which have resulted in a loss, and next year will see the addition of a new team with a natural, cross border rival of the Seattle Sounders FC getting their inaugural year into the MLS.
The timing seems ripe to have Vancouver Whitecaps join the MLS, and with natural rivals of Toronto and Seattle, combined with the international flavor of a city that would love nothing more than seeing great soccer action on the pitch, a MLS franchise in Vancouver seems like a great fit.
Of course, the question remains about where the Whitecaps will play in future. Even though renovations are in motion for BC Place and eventual incorporation of Whitecaps games in the post, 2010 Winter Olympics venue, the case for a new, waterfront stadium is still on the table, even if it’s dangling on the edge.
The thought of the MLS coming to Vancouver is highly entertaining. How cool would it be to see Chivas vs. the Whitecaps? Or the Chicago Fire or the Kansas City Wizards? I like that idea a lot.