Marc Dos Santos - training session

The dream to grow: Dos Santos on building Canadian soccer culture

Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos spoke with Halford & Brough on TSN Radio 1040 on Monday, regarding how Canada can internationally grow the game of soccer.

“I came back to Canada in 2004. When I came back, what I could tell you from 2004 to 2020, there’s a lot of growth. There’s a lot of growth thanks to the three teams, the three MLS teams have allowed the sport to grow into the country,” said Dos Santos.

Dos Santos has been able to experience the sport through different parts of the globe. At the age of nine, he attended with his father the 1991 U-20 FIFA World Cup Final in Lisbon, Portugal. The stadium was filled with over 120,000 people, and Portugal won against Brazil in a shootout. This is where he fell in love with the game and thought to himself, "I want to be a part of this."

Dos Santos says that the cultural aspect of soccer is one of the major things that allows the game to grow into a country.

“Culture is almost impossible to put in a country, it’s very natural, it’s from the roots,” said Dos Santos.

The first step in order to successfully grow one’s international sports level is to have a competitive youth program. Dos Santos said that competitiveness and having a willingness to win allows you to work to become better, even at a young age.

“It allows you to grow. I’ve seen it in other countries, I’ve coached players that were in that environment and I see the growth and that’s why in my opinion, it’s important,” said Dos Santos.

In February 2012, Dos Santos was hired as a youth academy coordinator for SE Palmeiras, one of Brazil’s most successful clubs. With his experience in South America, one of the things that struck him the most was how competitive youth programs were in Brazil. He says it’s the same for other countries and the U-20 FIFA World Cup tournament. 

“If you go to the biggest countries that are in the U-20 World Cup, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Portugal, Spain, they want to win it badly, and the media, the press, they want to win it. If you don’t have these things, you’re just waiting,” said Dos Santos.

Dos Santos said that when he arrived in Vancouver, it was very clear to him that Whitecaps FC wanted to genuinely help grow the sport in Canada. And after the club set a new league record for most combined regular season starts by Canadians in 2019, he's continued to provide opportunities for Canadians this year. 

“For us, the first two games we always had four Canadians starting. We had four Canadians that started against Sporting Kansas City, four that started against LA. One of them scores the winning goal, the other one gets a clean sheet,” said Dos Santos. 

There are currently 15 Canadian players under the ‘Caps roster with an MLS contract, as well as nine Homegrown products. 

“I’m very thankful that I’m the coach, and that I’m Canadian because I think it’s going to become more and more difficult to keep Canadian culture in MLS. I feel the responsibility that I’m representing the young Canadian culture that has the dream to grow.”