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USL-Pro Dreams now a Reality?

With the Whitecaps set to make a 'special' announcement at UBC, has the long road to form a USL-Pro team finally reached its end?

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Across the global, long-term soccer success has required a team to implement their own academy, to train the young players they scout, and a place for young players to practice their skill. In their four years as a Major League Soccer team, the Vancouver Whitecaps have done well to address the first requirement as evidenced by the most recent Under-20 Canadian National team in which 6 Whitecaps products were included (Samuel Adekugbe, Kianz Froese, Marco Carducci, Jordan Haynes, Marco Bustos, and Samuel Gasparotto). With regard to the second requirement? Well, the Whitecaps have been less successful of recent.

In the past, the Whitecaps have worked out affiliation deals with FC Edmonton of the North American Soccer League (2012/2013) and the Charleston Battery of the USL Professional Division (2014). However, these affiliations have not been the most ideal as the players are great distances away and the Whitecaps have little control over the players training and game action once they are loaned. In addition, it leaves few options for rehabbing players to get up-to-speed. Previously, the MLS operated ‘reserves’ league filled this role but has now become defunct.

Understanding the importance of full control over your developing players, it comes as no surprise that the first team in MLS to operate their own ‘B-Team’ was the LA Galaxy. This season, LA Galaxy II played in the USL Pro; a league, it is worth noting, in which newly joined MLS club Orlando FC played this season.  Seeing the success of LA Galaxy II, our Canadian counterparts (Toronto and Montreal), Cascadia rivals (Seattle and Portland), and Salt Lake formed their own USL Pro teams for the upcoming 2015 season while Houston and New York Red Bulls have plans to form teams for the 2016 season.

Having a successful academy, plenty of young players, and no place for them to play competitive soccer, the Vancouver Whitecaps have been eager to form their own USL Pro team. However, the plan has met, some might say surprising, opposition from the communities surrounding Vancouver. Initially planned to operate out of a refurbished Queens Park Stadium, New Westminster city council rejected the Whitecaps proposal in mid September. Setting their sights after on Surrey, the Whitecaps, again, faced opposition. It appeared that the Vancouver Whitecaps would not be fielding a USL Pro team this upcoming season.

Enter the University of British Columbia (UBC). At 11am this morning, the Whitecaps are set to make a major announcement and it is expected that the team will unveil the formation of their USL Pro team, playing out of UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium. If this is indeed the case, it is great news for the Whitecaps organization and their fans. The benefits of having an in-house reserve team, playing in a competitive 3rd division league, are too numerous to list here. However, it is safe to say that short-term and long-term, the Whitecaps are going to benefit. Homegrown players such as Carducci, Froese, Bustos, Adekube, Ethan Sampson, Mitchell Piraux, and Jackson Farmer, recent draftees Christian Dean and Andre Lewis, benchwarmer Paul Tornaghi, trial players, and rehabbing 1st team players now have a place to play weekly games to continue their maturation process and prepare for their opportunity to play for the Whitecaps or another top tier team. All that remains for the Whitecaps now is to find a new head coach for this team. My first choice: Colin Miller. Who is your choice?

Are you excited about the prospects of USL Pro soccer in Vancouver?

What do you think this means long-term for the Whitecaps?

Is UBC the right location?

For more discussion on the importance of lower division soccer see Rituro's piece from May of this year.