By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Today marks the 30th anniversary when Vancouver Whitecaps FC became the city's first professional sports team to win a major North American championship.
It was on September 8, 1979, that the Whitecaps became champions of the North American Soccer League (NASL) when it defeated Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 to win the NASL Soccer Bowl in front of over 50,000 spectators at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
In what became a memorable playoff run for the 'Caps, the club christened their new logo and colours of blue and white that season by bringing home their first league championship. Led by former Canadian national team head coach Tony Waiters, the Whitecaps won the Western Division of the NASL's National Conference with a record of 20 wins and 10 defeats.
Vancouver's run to the Soccer Bowl title began with a National Conference quarterfinal series win over Dallas Tornado. That set up a meeting versus Dutch legend Johan Cruyff and his Los Angeles Aztecs side in the conference semifinals. After losing the first match in Southern California, the Whitecaps won the second game 1-0 before winning the decisive mini-game by the same 1-0 scoreline after Kevin Hector scored at Empire Stadium.
That result took the Whitecaps to the National Conference championship final and a thrilling series versus a star-studded New York Cosmos side. After winning the first match in Vancouver 2-0 through goals by Trevor Whymark and Willie Johnston, the return game at Giants Stadium saw the Cosmos win 3-2 to force a mini-game and an eventual shoot-out. Yet, much to the disbelief of 44,109 Cosmos fans, Derek Possee scored the winning goal in the shoot-out to send the Whitecaps to the NASL championship final. With a squad that included the likes of Alan Ball, John Craven, Bob Lenarduzzi, and Phil Parkes, the Whitecaps went on to defeat Tampa Bay with two goals by Whymark to secure the Soccer Bowl title.
The Whitecaps triumph in 1979 is also remembered for what became the largest reception in British Columbia history. As many as 100,000 people lined Vancouver's Robson Street to salute their heroes during a championship parade the following day (September 9, 1979). Striker Carl Valentine summed up the joy of the club's success by famously announcing to supporters - "You are the number one fans, and we are the number one team!"
2009 marks 35 years since the Whitecaps played their first season in the NASL. For more on our long and storied history as Vancouver's professional soccer club, click here to view our history page.