After months of speculation and debate the Vancouver Whitecaps have today announced that USL Pro will be heading to British Columbia for 2015. Whitecaps FC II, or WFC2, will play their home games at Thunderbird Stadium, in close proximity to the National Soccer Development Centre and the club's training facilities. Vancouver have become the seventh MLS side with an affiliate registered for next year, joining LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake and the recently announced Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers affiliates, promising a reservoir of previously untapped opportunity.
Caps President Bob Lenarduzzi revealed the developments in a press conference alongside UBC President Arvind Gupta. "Today marks another important milestone for our club and another step forward in our partnership with UBC," proclaimed the 59-year-old. "We're thrilled to be launching our USL PRO team at UBC. We have many talented young players at our club, including nine Residency products who recently did very well internationally with our Canadian U-20 men's national team. WFC2 will allow them to continue their development against quality competition, including our fellow Cascadia rivals from Seattle and Portland."
There was as much delight as there was scrutiny attached to the plans for WFC2 to host fixtures in New Westminster and while that plan may have offered the most complete package going forward, supporters can at least feel relieved that the plethora of prospects unable to cement themselves into the first team will not waste a year, so to speak, in a significantly less competitive environment. Per the official statement released this Friday, "the club is now accepting $50 deposits on Season Tickets, which start at $118 plus applicable fees - just $8 per match - for current MLS Season Ticket Holders and the UBC campus community including residents, students, staff, and faculty" and this fan-friendly approach is garnering the praise it deserves. Moreover, those who are interested in following the team but are unable to attend matches can watch games for free on YouTube, a considerable incentive for people local and afar to build interest in their endeavors and continue to fuel the meteoric rise of the beautiful game in B.C.
Head Coach Carl Robinson has earned a reputation for his belief in youth and is looking forward to reaping the rewards from this new asset, telling whitecapsfc.com that "I'm not saying [the younger talents] won't step into the first team right away. If they do, brilliant. If not, then they don't lose time and get lost in the middle ground, which has happened to a few of our players before," and his sentiment was echoed by U-18 Residency assistant Steve Meadley, who commented; "It's that link that we've been missing. From what we do, it finishes the circle and provides a pro environment for these talented young players to make the next step in their careers". Robinson added that "for us coaches to be able to watch these players regularly, and if they do well, reward them with integration into the first team is so beneficial," elaborating that it would be a useful tool to maintain the fitness of members of the senior roster who aren't getting regular minutes in Major League Soccer.
As further signal of the commitment to the progression of Whitecaps FC, the blueprint for the final phase of the National Soccer Development Centre was unveiled, with the completion date set for early 2017. The proposed state-of-the-art, 35,000 square foot field house, further reflection of Vancouver's European model, is drawing much of the attention and will be designed by Acton Ostry Architects, who are based in the city, along with BBB Architects, who recently worked on Toronto's new training ground. Once the last stage has reached completion the Caps men's, girls elite, and residency sides will operate out of the NSDC as well as the UBC soccer outfits. Furthermore, the area will become the West Coast base for Canada's men's, women's, and youth national set-ups too.
Happenings surrounding WFC2 will be covered on Eighty Six Forever as they eventuate, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below as we look ahead to an enormously exciting time for the club.