Looking towards the future is a critical part of any growing sports franchise, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC have taken steps to outline their goals.
Earlier this week, a four-year plan called Vision 2011 was unveiled by the Whitecaps that set a number of goals that the club are hoping to achieve. Every aspect of the club has been considered in the plan, including areas relating to the development of the Whitecaps men’s and women’s team programs.
2008 is shaping up to be an important year towards the achievements of those goals, with the club looking to have a bright season on the pitch in the New Year. The Whitecaps men will certainly hope for better fortune after a disappointing 2007 campaign that resulted in a seventh-place finish in the USL First Division standings and a first-round playoff exit.
With former Iceland national team captain Teitur Thordarson being unveiled as the new Whitecaps men’s team head coach this week, there is an anticipation for the brand of soccer that his squad will be playing come next spring. Whitecaps soccer operations manager Greg Anderson believes fans will enjoy the Scandinavian tactician’s approach to the game. “One thing that Teitur has talked about is how much he likes playing attack-minded soccer,” Anderson told whitecapfc.com. “It is that style that we really want to play, especially at home, because it’s a style of play that’s fun to watch.”
Part of the continuing progress for the men’s team will be to move players into Thordarson’s first-team squad from the club’s residency program. Though still in its early stages after starting up this past September, Anderson revealed the positive impact that the program has already generated. “We had great reviews from the technical directors of the clubs that the residency group played in Germany,” he said. “Some of them even stated that it was the best group of North Americans that they had seen visit them. Also, our success in friendlies this fall has led us to be in consideration for some elite and high-profile tournaments in both the US and in Europe.”
Of course, the growth of the Whitecaps is not just measured in the development and success of the men’s game. The club remains highly committed to having a world-class women’s soccer program, though Whitecaps fans should expect a different looking team to take the field in 2008. “We still have the goal of winning the W-League championship, but we’re also focusing on developing our younger players as well,” Anderson said. “The program has produced a lot of players in the past and the goal of the women’s program is to continue to develop Canadian players."
Having a vision for the future as a professional soccer club includes the need to develop future players. 2007 provided the Whitecaps with a successful implementation of its youth development policy through both the Prospects and Super Y-League affiliate programs. “The youth development program has undergone a number of significant changes in the last few years, but I feel that we now have the right formula,” Anderson said. “The Super Y-League affiliates not only form a great way for us to develop great relationships with local clubs, it provides a whole new level of opportunity for players by broadening the scope with more teams.”
The club’s future goals include having a new facilities in which to play games and train. While there is plenty of anticipation for the completion of the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium, the club is also working towards the building of its own training centre on the Lower Mainland. “From a development standpoint, it’s essential that we have access to our own facility and grow our identity, as well as soccer in British Columbia and Canada,” said Anderson. “To have a Whitecaps National Training Centre is really vital for the growth of all the initiatives that we are trying to do, as it will be based on the model of a European-style training centre with multiple fields and state-of-the-art support facilities. I think it’s a very exciting project and we’ve had some very positive talks with The Corporation of Delta and hope to move those along in the New Year.”
As in the last couple of seasons, Whitecaps fans can expect another high-profile international friendly against a quality opponent in 2008. Anderson remains optimistic that a top European side will make a visit to Vancouver next summer. “We’re doing everything we can to bring a good quality team here,” he said. “We’re exploring a number of different opportunities, and although talks are in the early stages, some of the discussions have been quite positive.”
Vision 2011 outlines a bright and ambitious future for the Whitecaps. For Anderson, the next few years could see soccer and the club reach new heights in this part of North America. “It’s a very exciting time for the club,” he said. “The commitment from our ownership to our management team to move the club’s initiatives forward is exciting. I think the next four years is going to be a huge time in the development of Whitecaps FC.”