The 2011 Major League Soccer season kicks off on Tuesday when Seattle Sounders FC host Los Angeles Galaxy. Of course, the buzz here surrounds Vancouver Whitecaps FC's debut at home to Canadian arch-rivals Toronto FC on Saturday. In this recap of our MLS 101 series, we look at what is going to happen this season, and what we can expect from Vancouver's return to the North American top flight.
MLS is the fastest growing league in North American sports, and is a league that is going to be around for a long time. By being a single entity league, it is controlling its costs and taking small steps moving forward. Stability has been a key to the success of MLS so far.
It is very exciting to see the number of soccer-specific stadiums in MLS, with more teams looking to find their own home fields in the future. BC Place is being designed to be soccer friendly on game day, and our fans are going to be delighted with the cozy and intimate feeling when they walk into the stadium. Without a doubt, Whitecaps FC fans will not recognize BC Place when they make their first visit in early October. The renovations will provide an intimidating environment for the opposition.
When we looked at the league's rivalries, we can see that MLS has done its best to create as many as possible. But as the league has indicated, there is nothing to match the Vancouver, Portland, and Seattle rivalry that we will experience starting this season. We already got a taste of this in preseason at the Cascadia Summit and it is going to be spectacular. There is no doubt that supporters of these three clubs will make each Cascadia Cup match an incredible experience.
We can look forward to star power coming to Vancouver when the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry bring their teams to challenge our Whitecaps FC. My MLS 101 article on coaches described how we will see many different styles of play and how we will learn to respect the many exciting players we were not aware of before in MLS. We can also look forward to seeing which top draft picks will make a splash this season.
MLS 101 also looked at how we can follow our Whitecaps FC and the rest of the MLS teams, and there is a long list of options. We can listen to every Whitecaps FC match on TEAM 1410 radio and view all of Vancouver's matches on Rogers Sportsnet and TSN. Through newspapers, podcasts, radio, television, and websites, we can keep up with every move made during the 2011 season.
As I have said before, many of us have waited for this for a long, long time. I believe the city of Vancouver is ready to have another love affair with our Whitecaps FC. We have so much to look forward to: going back to Empire Field where it all started and moving into a refurbished BC Place and taking on Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers on October 2.
This season will not only invoke memories of the late 1970's and early 1980's here in Vancouver, it will also create new memories for a new generation of Whitecaps FC fans.
Bring on Saturday!