Fans urged to play their part tonight - The Province

Club calls on crowd to participate in choreographed MLS bid Marc Weber The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting into the film business. Looking to bolster their bid for one of two Major League Soccer franchises up for grabs in 2011, the Whitecaps are staging a mini production tonight when they host the Minnesota Thunder at Swangard Stadium. Every fan through the gates will be handed an MLS rally card with instructions for their participation during the game. Video and audio clips from the organized chants will be incorporated into the bid book. Think of it as unpaid extra work with a potentially huge payoff. "Certainly the majority of the submission will be all of the attributes that we think we bring to an MLS franchise," said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. "This aspect is a way to dress it up a bit." Lenarduzzi is confident that the Whitecaps are a front-runner for either the 17th or 18th franchise in MLS, but said he felt the bid books would play a key role in the decision. "When I look at what we have to offer and when I look at the other bids," he said, "with all due respect -- except for Montreal -- they all seem to be missing one aspect or another. But the last thing we want to do is assume anything or leave anything to chance. It's important to present a strong package from beginning to end that has no holes in it." It will be interesting to see how Oscar-worthy the crowd's performance is tonight. There seems to be a groundswell of support for bringing an MLS team to Vancouver, but this is also a wait-and-see city, scarred by the loss of numerous major sporting events and professional teams. That the Whitecaps have endured, though, suggests that tonight could be one of the feel-good sports scenes of the summer -- however scripted. The deadline for submission to the league is Oct. 15, and MLS has stated it will come to a decision in the fourth quarter of 2008 or the first quarter of 2009. "I think it's more realistic that it's going to be earlier in the new year," said Lenarduzzi, who six weeks ago introduced NBA all-star Steve Nash and San Francisco Giants part-owner Jeff Mallett as key players in the bid. The knock on Vancouver is the lack of a soccer-specific stadium, but MLS did recently award a franchise to Seattle, which will play out of Qwest Field, home of the NFL's Seahawks. The Whitecaps have a lease in place to play out of a renovated B.C. Place starting in 2011 and continue to pursue the waterfront stadium. Portland has also publicly stated its intention to submit a bid, while Montreal is a sure bet. The other interested cities named at the all-star game by commissioner Don Garber were St. Louis, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Ottawa, and a second team in New York. Toronto FC paid $10 million as a franchise fee. Philadelphia, which enters in 2010, paid $30 million. These next two teams are expected to pay between $40 million and $50 million. mweber@theprovince.com © The Vancouver Province 2008