Team planning 'all part of the next step to MLS'
Major League Soccer chatter ramps up again today as the league announces cities and ownership groups vying for two expansions in 2011.
The Whitecaps are joined by groups representing Montreal, Ottawa, Portland, St. Louis and potentially four more American cities.
Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini, who gave serious thought to a separate Vancouver bid, was not expected to be in the mix.
Decisions on the 17th and 18th franchises could come as soon as the MLS Cup on Nov. 23. But regardless of Vancouver's fate in this round -- it's thought MLS will go beyond 18 teams in the near future -- change is coming to the Whitecaps.
The club's working toward an extended season in 2009. The plan could be similar to that of the Montreal Impact, which this season signed players to 10-month contracts rather than eight-month deals. The Impact opened camp Jan. 7 and made preseason tours of Italy in January and Portugal in February. There are rumours of an African tour for Vancouver, who this season opened camp in March. There is speculation about a series of exhibitions, maybe in conjunction with MLS's newest addition, the Seattle Sounders.
"That's something we have not nailed down yet," said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, whose newly-crowned team was honoured at city hall on Tuesday. "But if we want to continue to evolve we've got to have guys on longer contracts. We're still going to be keeping an eye on success while developing new talent."
That raises an interesting question: Will commitment issues, rather than performance issues, spell the end of the road for Vancouver's veteran hometown heroes -- who all have jobs and, except for Geordie Lyall, kids?
"During our season they [other bosses] give us a lot of time to focus on the field and, obviously, they expect the opposite in the winter," said 28-year-old midfielder Alfredo Valente. "January and February are busy times in the club soccer scene. Both sides are going to have to ... work things out."
Valente, Jeff Clarke, Steve Kindel, Jason Jordan and Martin Nash all coach soccer.
Coach Teitur Thordarson admitted his eyes are on 2011:
"We have to try and bring in players who we think will be around after two years. We have to bring in players earlier, train more. This is all part of the next step to MLS."
- Mayor Sam Sullivan and councillors were honouring the new USL1 champs at city hall. The team flag was raised in front of 50 people.
"It's a demonstration of how proud we are of the team and the coaches," said Sullivan.
- The USL First Division could well move to a two-leg final starting in 2009. In the wake of the hosting controversy at this year's championship game -- Vancouver winning out over first-place Puerto Rico.
USL vice-president Tim Holt on Sunday told Team 1040 radio: "I think the time has come to have a two-leg championship. You might see that in 2009."
Puerto Rico coach Colin Clarke repeated his claim that money talked:
"You buy the final, it's wrong."
- USL has added two First Division expansion teams. The Austin Aztex begin play in 2009, while the Tampa Bay Rowdies return to pro soccer in 2010. British-born businessman Phil Rawlins, an owner of English Championship side Stoke City, is behind the Austin franchise.
It was the Rowdies whom the Whitecaps beat in the 1979 NASL title game, after which the team returned to 100,000 fans on Robson Street.
© The Vancouver Province 2008