(In case you didn't know, Eighty Six Forever has a fanpost page, where you guys and gals can submit articles of your own about, or anything relating to the Whitecaps. We saw a great one written by regular Chris Corrigan, and have decided to give it the recognition it deserves. You can check out the fanpost section here)
Seattle secured the US Open Cup in a thrilling extra time comeback last night. Since the Sounders have come into the league they have won this cup four times, and as a result have appeared in the CONCACAF Champions League on a regular basis. And they have given a good account of themselves there. This is a brilliant strategy. The Seattle fans are now used to securing silverware and the team's reputation has grown year after year. Players can be rightly sold on the fact that this is a club that takes its competitions seriously.
I want that for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The North American sports scene has a ridiculous amount of attention put on the playoffs. In the rest of the world the best team is the one that wins the league. That makes all kinds of sense, To win the Supporter's Shield you have to play well week after week at home and on the road. You need a good team playing well and you need to know that every game matters. It's what makes football fantastic, especially in a league that is so closely competitive as the MLS. But there is a weird amount of attention placed on the playoffs. A team that barely sneaks into the playoffs has a chance of winning the "championship" despite the fact that they may have been many degrees more crappy than the real champion.
The MLS is a strange hybrid of both North American models and global models of sports leagues. So there are other competitions we play in. And this is a good thing. As the season starts every year, we are enrolled in four competitions: the MLS league, the MLS Cup, the Canadian Championship and, by virtue of the fact that the CC is a qualifier, the CONCACAF Champions League. Add to that the minor but important Cascadia Cup. It boggles my mind that the competition we choose to focus on is the MLS Cup. It takes a truly elite team to win that competition. We have never been considered close to favourites for it. But we pour our attention into it as if we are.
The knock on effect is that we sacrifice trophies year after year to get there. The obvious one is the CC. This year, Carl Robinson used the Canadian Championship to field a team made up of marginal players, some of whom weren't even signed to Whitecaps contracts. They were essentially volunteering their services to help our team be the best in Canada and qualify for a continental competition. Look, if we were a lock for the Supporter's Sheild or the MLS Cup, I'd say "go for it...blood the youngsters in the CC."
Now I understand squad rotation. But I cannot fathom throwing away a trophy. No one in Seattle this morning is lamenting the fact that the team pushed to win this trophy, or that it has secured an identity as giants of the US Open Cup competition. No one thinks they have sacrificed too much to win it. And in the years when it was unrealistic for Seattle to win the league or the MLS Cup, they went after the US Open Cup with an air of aggressive entitlment. And now they are building new trophy cabinets.
As I renew my season's ticket this year I want the Whitecaps front office to know that every competition we are involved in is important, but that we have to be strategic. I say field full sides in our CC matches. Blood the kids in a few league matches early on to rest the vets that are winning the Voyageurs Cup. Let's win this trophy. Let's secure our place in the CCL (including playing for that possibility this season, where MLS league standing will determine the 2015-16 Canadian entrant). I want to see us next season lifting the Voayguers Cup and starting the 2015-16 group stages of the CCL next summer.
The trophies are there for the asking. There is no reason why we cannot win this trophy, no reason why we should not make that trophy a priority. Lifting a cup is a great way to attract talent to the team, wins us more financial resources, and gives the supporters bragging rights.
Let's do this.