In the first of a five-part series looking back at Whitecaps FC's year in 2010, we chronicle the many events that have shaped the club towards their move to Major League Soccer in 2011.
The excitement and anticipation surrounding Vancouver Whitecaps FC these days is tied to what will occur in 2011. While so many are looking forward to Major League Soccer in the New Year, 2010 proved a crucial 12 months in the transition and early establishment of the Blue and White as an MLS franchise.
That transition began in January when the 'Caps unveiled Tom Soehn as their director of soccer. A former MLS player and coach, Soehn spent much of the year scouting the world and fully assessing the talent within the ranks of Teitur Thordarson's squad. His efforts saw plenty of change to the men's team during the USSF D-2 Pro League season.
Like many on the Lower Mainland, Whitecaps FC were very much into the spirit of the XXI Olympic Winter Games. On the day of the Opening Ceremonies (February 12), club president Bobby Lenarduzzi took part in the final day of the Olympic Torch Relay by carrying the Olympic Flame along Great Northern Way and down East 2nd Avenue in Vancouver. It proved to be a memorable two weeks, as Vancouver emerged as a city of global stature.
With the Olympic buzz still resonating, Whitecaps FC added to the city's enthusiasm for top-level sport with a one-year countdown to their first match in MLS. Taking place on the opening day of the 2010 MLS season (March 25), league president Mark Abbott, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson joined 'Caps CEO Paul Barber and president Bob Lenarduzzi to mark the historic date, while fans celebrated with club officials and staff later that evening.
The other major sporting event of 2010 was the FIFA World Cup. In the build-up to the opening day of the tournament in South Africa, Whitecaps FC celebrated two important milestones in the first week of June. The first was the unveiling of the club's new brand and logo at the Vancouver Convention Centre. That was followed by the unveiling of the new adidas Whitecaps MLS jerseys and the announcement of Bell as the club's Premier Founding Partner. Later in the year, BMO Financial Group and EA SPORTS were named the club's Founding Partners.
On September 2, the club announced that Thordarson would lead Whitecaps FC into the MLS era as their head coach following three productive seasons at the helm.
As things were building towards a new chapter in the club's history, 2010 brought a long and memorable era to an end, as the 'Caps bid farewell to Swangard Stadium and the North American second division level. Vancouver's defeat to eventual USSF D-2 champions Puerto Rico Islanders in the playoff semifinals on October 17 ended Whitecaps FC's time at Swangard after 24 consecutive seasons.
The club also ventured into new and innovative technology during the year. This past season, the 'Caps increased their presence on Facebook and Twitter to keep new and existing fans informed about the latest happenings at the club. Then in early November, the club launched its new MLS-branded website, as well as a unique "Virtual Venue" program that allows season ticket holders to view and purchase their most desired seats in a renovated BC Place.
It was also in November that the inaugural MLS squad started to take shape. USA World Cup star Jay DeMerit became Vancouver's first MLS signing on November 18 before four more players were added to Thordarson's side in the MLS Expansion Draft on November 24. Five more players from the 2010 squad also earned MLS contracts with Whitecaps FC before the end of the year.
Finally, on December 20, MLS announced that Whitecaps FC would host Canadian rivals Toronto FC in their season opener at Empire Field on March 19, 2011.
The announcement of the club's first MLS game was a fitting way to end a remarkable year for the Blue and White, and with more exciting moments to come in 2011, spring cannot come soon enough…