Caps try to spread brand - The Province

Effort to make club 'Western Canada's team'

By: Marc Weber

The Western Canada Whitecaps?

No, the Vancouver soccer club isn't planning another name change, but president Bob Lenarduzzi was talking perception shifts Saturday when discussing the Whitecaps FC-L.A. Galaxy match set for Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium on Tuesday.

"From a branding perspective, it's about extending the Whitecaps name into Alberta and throughout Western Canada, which is something, in time, we'd like to be known as -- Western Canada's team," he said.

Last November, the Galaxy and uber-star David Beckham drew a crowd of 48,172 to B.C. Place Stadium. Some wondered, then, why the Whitecaps didn't try the same venue again.

Lenarduzzi's response sheds a little light on that. It also shows how big-picture the Whitecaps' focus is, though building a strong brand across Western Canada is likely dependent on getting into the higher-profile MLS, which in turn is dependent on a new stadium.

There's a good chance, too, that another Beckham bash in Vancouver would have been a tough sell just six months after the first. The Whitecaps expect somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 for the game at Commonwealth Stadium, which, unlike B.C. Place, has a grass field.

"That was appealing for them, too, and particularly for Beckham," Lenarduzzi said of the field. "Pulling off a successful event in Edmonton will also open more doors for high-end international friendlies in Vancouver, as many teams making the long trek would prefer to play twice."

As for Tuesday's tilt, fans in Edmonton are likely to see something that fans in Vancouver didn't see: goals.

The Galaxy lead MLS with 13 goals in six games, and Beckham can again be called "hot" for his play as much as his pecs, being twice named MLS player of the week this season.

mweber@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Province 2008