As we build up to Whitecaps FC's return to downtown Vancouver, whitecapsfc.com takes a look at the major soccer events that have been staged at BC Place since the stadium's first opening 28 years ago. Today, we look at the different games that were played at BC Place during soccer's wilderness years in downtown Vancouver.
The demise of the North American Soccer League (NASL) at the end of the 1984 season ended Whitecaps FC's first spell of tenancy in BC Place. However, soccer fans in Vancouver would have the chance to take in 'The Beautiful Game' through a set of friendly games in the mid-1980's. In the build-up to Canada's lone appearance at a FIFA World Cup in 1986, Tony Waiters' squad played three exhibition matches in the stadium. They defeated the United States 2-0 (April 2, 1985) before drawing 0-0 with Paraguay (January 29, 1986) and falling 3-0 to Wales (May 19, 1986).
In June 1985, there was a four-team international tournament that featured Scottish giants Celtic and Dutch powerhouse Ajax. Celtic defeated the Pacific Rim Soccer League All-Stars in one semifinal before local side North Shore Colts upset Ajax on penalties. Bolstered by the temporary additions of top stars like Peter Beardsley and Rudi Krol, North Shore won the final with a 2-1 victory over Celtic in front of 10,000 fans at BC Place.
Fast-forward to the early 1990's and the Canadian Soccer League (CSL) glory years of Vancouver 86ers. While Bob Lenarduzzi's side made Swangard Stadium their fortress in winning four-straight CSL championship titles, the 86ers also played three friendly matches in BC Place. This included games against two big names of European club soccer. The 86ers fell 2-1 to Portuguese giants Benfica on June 15, 1991, before falling 2-0 to Italian powerhouse AC Milan on June 6, 1992. The next month, Hong Kong defeated the 86ers 2-1 in a friendly on July 4, 1992.
By the mid-1990's, the 86ers were playing at the North American second division level. They returned to BC Place to play five home matches to start the 1995 American Professional Soccer League season, as Swangard underwent renovations. Led by Whitecaps FC legend Carl Valentine, the 86ers suffered two defeats to Atlanta Ruckus and a loss to arch-rivals Seattle Sounders before earning a pair of wins over Montreal Impact and New York Centaurs. The 3-0 victory over New York on June 27, 1995, was the last competitive soccer match that Vancouver played in BC Place before the stadium's renovations and Whitecaps FC's move back downtown this weekend.
There was another high-profile soccer game at BC Place, and a match that arguably sowed the seeds for the 'Caps return to the stadium this season. In the final edition of our series on the major soccer moments at BC Place, we look at the event that was the 'David Beckham' game between Whitecaps FC and MLS club LA Galaxy in November 2007.