Proposed USL PRO franchise an 'important piece of the puzzle' for Whitecaps FC, says Lenarduzzi

NEW WESTMINSTER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC made big inroads into their future player development this morning with the announcement of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, marking their intent to work towards the launch of a United Soccer League (USL) PRO franchise in New Westminster in time for the 2015 season.

The final consultation process still needs to take place between the city and their residents but Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi described the early feedback as “very positive” and the launch of their own USL Pro club is being seen as the crucial missing link between Vancouver’s successful Residency program and its MLS side.

“We have said right from the outset of joining MLS, and even prior to it, we want to be a club that develops players,” Lenarduzzi told reporters at a press conference this morning.

“Up to now, we've been missing that one piece of the puzzle and it's a very important piece. For us, if we want to continue to be a club that develops players, this is a piece of the puzzle that we need to have.”

The ‘Caps currently have a USL Pro affiliate, Charleston Battery, and Lenarduzzi said it’s been a great relationship. But having an affiliate many miles away has not been ideal and implementing the Whitecaps FC playing philosophy on an already established club can present challenges.

Lenarduzzi described having their own USL Pro team just 12 miles away from their current MLS home at BC Place as “very advantageous” and the move is seen as the best way forward for the club's continued development of young players, particularly homegrown Canadian talent.

“It's something we've been contemplating for a considerable amount of time,” Lenarduzzi said. “We've invested a lot of money into our youth development program. What we've been finding, and what's been the case for a number of years now, is there's been a gap from the time that players graduate from Residency at the age of 18 and being able to play in our senior team.

“Between 18 and 23, the playing options for those players, not just in British Columbia, but across the country and in fact across Canada and the United States, there's a real void there. In most soccer playing countries that age of player is getting good competition. So the idea of [having] a USL franchise that will be able to be a place for those players that graduate from our Residency program to strive forward is very, very exciting.”

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