VANCOUVER — NBA superstar Steve Nash, one of the country’s most visible athletes, is joining the reclusive owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps in a bid to buy a Major League Soccer franchise.
The Whitecaps hope to bring an MLS team to Vancouver when the league grants two new franchises in 2011.
Nash wouldn’t say how much money he is spending. It’s estimated a franchise could cost between US$30 and $40 million.
"I’m investing my own money, a considerable amount," the Phoenix Suns’ guard told a news conference Friday via telephone from New York. "While I will definitely be far from a majority owner I will have a stake in the club.
"For me the money is part of it. It’s only a token of the passion and commitment that I have to see the club come to Vancouver."
Nash will become a partner with current Whitecaps’ owner Greg Kerfoot. The two make a strange pair.
Raised in Victoria, Nash is a two-time NBA most valuable player whose face is splashed across television and newspapers. Besides his abilities on the court, he’s also heavily involved in charity work.
His younger brother Martin is a midfielder with the Whitecaps.
Kerfoot, born and raised in Burnaby, B.C., made his fortune with an information software management company. He is notoriously media-shy and did not even attend the press conference when he purchased the Whitecaps in 2003.
He also didn’t attend Friday’s news conference which drew Vancouver’s mayor plus provincial and federal politicians.
A huge soccer supporter, Kerfoot funded a residency program for the national women’s team, paying each player $20,000 a year out of his own pocket.
The Whitecaps currently play in the United Soccer League’s first division.
MLS commissioner Don Garber has said the league’s goal is to reach 18 teams. The league’s board of governors approved the addition of two teams by 2011.
The MLS currently has 14 teams, with Seattle becoming the 15th team next season and Philadelphia joining in 2010.
Garber confirmed the potential expansion teams are Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Atlanta, Las Vegas, a second team in the New York area, Portland, and St. Louis.
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the team’s 35-year history, dating back to the days of the North American Soccer League, makes it a natural choice to advance to the MLS.
"We believe the MLS is the best league in North America," said Lenarduzzi. "What we’d like to do as a club is be able to show that were are one of the best club sides in North America.
"We do have a history of success as a professional soccer franchise. We feel, from an organizational prospective, we meet all the requirements to be one of the two MLS franchises awarded."
Including Nash only enhances the Whitecaps’ chances, said Lenarduzzi.
"It’s a no-brainer," he said. "He has such a great reputation and a great credibility. He’s just like the guy next door despite of all the success he has had.
"He loves British Columbia, he watched the Whitecaps. Him associating himself with our bid has to give us an edge on other franchises that wouldn’t have that kind of individual."
Nash hinted he would remain involved with the Whitecaps even if the team doesn’t succeed in its bid to join the MLS.
"If it doesn’t become a reality I’d still want to support the Whitecaps," he said.
Growing up Nash was a good soccer player but he doubted if he would ever play for the Whitecaps when his basketball career is over.
"I think my ownership stake would be revoked if I tried to suit up for the Whitecaps," Nash laughed. "I am going to be a very vocal owner at the games, in the stands, in my seat."