The Vancouver Whitecaps are set to be the latest MLS club to field a USL PRO team.
The Whitecaps announced on Tuesday that the club will work together with the city of New Westminster, B.C. – a community located on the Fraser River, a short drive southeast of Vancouver – on a plan to found a USL expansion club in time for the 2015 season.
“We are thrilled to announce our efforts with the City of New Westminster to bring a new professional soccer team to its vibrant sports and family oriented community,” said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi in a statement. “A USL PRO franchise in our own backyard is an important step in our efforts to support the development of players, especially young Canadians, at every level by bridging the pathway to our Major Soccer League team, as well as the national team.”
The plan is some ways from completion, however, and hinges on the refurbishment of New Westminster's Queens Park Stadium. Community consultation and other processes will take place in the coming months and USL PRO has set a deadline of Sept. 15 which must be met in order for play to begin next year.
“There is a lot of work ahead, but we’re looking forward to working with the City of New Westminster and all of its stakeholders to make this vision a reality and provide a significant community asset for years to come,” said Lenarduzzi.
Known as “western Canada’s original city,” New Westminster could also become a host for Whitecaps youth team matches and assorted grassroots programs.
“This is a great initiative that will bring tremendous benefits for our city,” said New Westminster mayor Wayne Wright. “The upgrades to Queens Park Stadium including a new turf field, video scoreboard, and lighting, along with locating a Whitecaps FC USL PRO franchise in our community will put New Westminster on the map when it comes to the best soccer has to offer.”
The 'Caps have one of the youngest rosters in MLS, with players such as No. 3 overall draft pick Christian Dean (above) and former No. 1 overall pick Omar Salgado in need of playing time.
Currently, the LA Galaxy are the only MLS team operating a fully fledged USL PRO outfit, with "Los Dos" in the first year of existance. The Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City and now Vancouver have all announced plans to follow suit.