Top 10 Things to Look Forward To: Vancouver MLS 2011

January 4, 2011 at 5:54 am | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps In MLS | 2 Comments

Now that 2011 is upon us it is time to reflect on the good things to look forward to when we join Major League Soccer this year:

1.  The look on Bobby Lenarduzzi’s face.

If there is one man who has carried the torch for professional soccer in our fair city during the difficult years since the death of the NASL in 1984 until the present, it is unquestionably Bob Lenarduzzi. Bobby was involved in the original Whitecaps, then the 86ers, and then the Whitecaps again in an almost continual run (he coached Canada for a number of years for a break!) since 1974.  He was fired by owner David Stadnyk in late 2001, and then rehired by the league to run the team when Stadnyk left the team ownerless in 2002. Along the way Bobby has been player, player-coach, general manger, president, CEO and any number of other titles.  Lenarduzzi helped talk Greg Kerfoot into buying the team in 2002 when it looked like the team would disappear, and the Whitecaps have taken off like a rocket ever since. If anyone deserves the credit for taking us to Major League Soccer, it has to be Bobby for keeping the faith in professional soccer alive here in Vancouver. Bobby soldiered on and led the cause like no one else, becoming the undisputed spiritual leader of the game in BC. He will have to pinch himself when the first MLS game is played in Vancouver at a full Empire Stadium, where he played for the Whitecaps back in their first era. Now that Carl Valentine is back with us, another guy who has done great things for footy, we can double the gobsmacked fun!

2. Back in the Big League.

We will be in the best league that football can offer to us as a Canadian soccer team.   We will see the best players we have seen since the halcyon days of the North American Soccer League.  While in recent years the standard of MLS has not been that much greater than that of USL-1, the MLS is getting better in quality.  Better players are taking an interest in playing in MLS, helped along by the fact teams can now splash out some serious cash and sign three designated players outside of the salary cap rather than one.   Not since the days of the old NASL could we have such great names coming to town to play footy on our turf: Beckham, Henri, and Marques for a start.  The fact that the US has qualified for every World Cup since the league began is a testament to the quality of MLS. Let’s hope three Canadian MLS teams help the Canadian men’s national team to follow suit.

3. Higher Profile League

In recent years Major League Soccer is making a bigger splash in the North American sports market, and is a generally recognized sports brand, while the USSF division 2 (whether you call it USL or NASL) is not really on the mainstream media’s radar. When the Whitecaps are in MLS, soccer reportage will increase in local media beyond the paltry coverage given it now. Watch for hilarious media clunkers, however,  as local sportscasters who don’t know the game make fools of themselves trying to comment on it.

4. Bigger Crowds Home and Away

Sometimes in the past when we saw the Whitecaps playing away from home, the setup of most of the home teams could only be described as bush league.  With MLS teams now playing in soccer specific stadia, and crowds growing to serious numbers, we will not have to endure the bush league any longer.  While some MLS teams still struggle to fill their stadia with respectable crowds, other teams such as Seattle keep getting crowds of up to 36,000, which is a very impressive number by any standard and which would be welcomed by the vast majority of clubs in world football. Won’t it be fun to silence 35,500 Seattle folk when we beat them in their own park? The Whitecaps will sell out home games.  Away matches on the tele were a rarity before, but now we can expect to see all away games on the tele.

5. Whitecaps Back in the city of Vancouver

We certainly have to thank the city of Burnaby for hosting the Whitecaps and the 86ers all of these years.   There was something odd and wrong about having the Vancouver Whitecaps playing in Burnaby, however. The Vancouver Whitecaps belong in Vancouver. We’re going back ‘ome!  When the team gets back to BC Place, it will be possible to make a day of it on match days in downtown Vancouver.   Hanging about the shops, restaurants, pubs and coffee shops on match days will make for a carnival atmosphere, and the streets around the stadium will be filled with Whitecaps fans enjoying the amenities of beautiful downtown Vancouver. Even non-footy loving spouses will be happy. All we had around Swangard in Burnaby was a Starbucks and a few dodgy sushi joints.

6. West Coast Rivalries

Seattle-Portland-Los Angeles-San Jose…   The mouth waters as dreams of football tourism abound.   Each of these cities will be fun to hate (although its hard to hate San Jose because it doesn’t really have any character to speak of, but we’ll try). It will be the Shittle Flounders, the Portscum Slivers, The LA Coke-Sniffers and the San Jose… Oh, we’ll just have to think of something… Any suggestions?  The fact that Amway is their sponsor should provide plenty of ammunition for ridicule.

7. Canadian Rivalries

Toronto Football Club?  Need I say more?  It will be fun to trounce the kings of MLS football incompetence as they stumble about in the dark, wondering what horrible curse they are playing under. When Montreal drag their sleazy football tactics into the  MLS in 2012 there will be even more unfriendly rivalry.

8. Refurbished BC Place

Once BC Place is done, it will be a joy to behold.  It will be great to get back into the elements and to have natural light shining through on the playing field on match days.   The Whitecaps (and the Lions) are very lucky indeed because the very expensive BC Place roof and general refurbishment commenced in the midst of a terrible global economic meltdown. For a while there the whole project, including Vancouver’s entry into the MLS, looked at risk. Thankfully the whole project is going ahead….Whew!!!!

9.  The first Goal in MLS at home

I can hardly wait to see it.  And remember,  Teitur, we don’t want to wait four games for it to happen like it did for TFC. Lets get that goal (or two even?) during the first home match verses Toronto FC.

10.  Travelling supporters

Some of the best matches at Swangard over the years were those matches where Seattle and Portland fans travelled up the I-5 to visit our ground.  The Cascadia Cup teams have an agreement that 500 tickets will be set aside for travelling support.  Away supporters make a game that much more intense as the fans try to sing and chant over one another.  At last we will be able to experience a true football atmosphere at home games.   Time to clear your throat and get ready to support the Whitecaps properly!

All in all, 2011 promises to be a great year for Whitecaps fans.

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2 Comments »

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  1. I hope both Vancouver and Portland do extraordinarily well on the pitch, in the stands and sell lots of merch.

    May the 3 great teams from Cascadia rule the MLS with our only losses coming at the hands of our local rivals!

    Look forward to seeing Vancouver in BC place.

    • Bocasounders: Thanks for your comments. I think the MLS is going to have a new heart and it will beat out of Cascadia. Nowhere else in the league will the MLS have such passionate support as in Seattle, Vancouver and Portland. It really is going to be fantastic to be a part of it all. Long live the Cascadia cup!


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