Whitecaps FC original #6 Sam Lenarduzzi

Players and their number

Last month, Jay DeMerit became Whitecaps FC's first Major League Soccer player signing. The addition of DeMerit immediately prompted the question of what number will he wear for the Blue and White?

On Tuesday, the 'Caps answered that question, with DeMerit set to carry on the club's North American Soccer League (NASL) tradition of strong centre backs by donning the #6 jersey.

A quick history lesson - until the 1990s, most clubs in world soccer assigned the player's number in relationship to the position they played - goalkeepers would wear #1, fullbacks #2 and #3, centre backs #5 and #6, central midfielders #4 and #8, wingers #7 and #11, and strikers #9 and #10.

In Vancouver's inaugural season of 1974, veteran Canadian international centre back Sam Lenarduzzi proudly wore #6 until he moved to Toronto Blizzard in 1979. Calm on the ball and a great reader of the game, Lenarduzzi led the line well through the early years of Whitecaps FC.

After Lenarduzzi, veteran Everton centre back Roger Kenyon took over the #6 jersey for three seasons. He was a defender who intimidated many a forward, and led the team from the back, to the historical NASL Soccer Bowl championship in 1979.

In the 1982 season, the 'Caps were marshalled at the back by number #6 John Wile. The tough-tackling centre back had made over 500 appearances with England's West Bromwich Albion FC and kept the tradition of #6's leading the line.

It's a tradition that DeMerit will now look to continue, as the club return to the top flight of North American soccer next year.