Whitecaps big league once again

BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:16 PM ET

After a 10,153-day absence, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will play a meaningful match in North America’s top professional soccer league at Empire Field on Saturday.

The North American Soccer League’s 1974-launched Whitecaps left East Vancouver on June 1, 1983, for B.C. Place Stadium. They lost their last game Sept. 28, 1984, in Chicago. Both the league and team ceased in early 1985. Empire Stadium was demolished less than a decade later.

The “new wave” arrived at Swangard Stadium in 1987 as the community-owned, Canadian Soccer League 86ers. Bob Lenarduzzi, the only 11-season Whitecap, was playing-coach.

Ownership switched to Milan Ilich, David Braley and David Stadnyk. The latter resurrected the Whitecaps brand in a 2000 deal with John Laxton, who bought the trademark at the Whitecaps’ 1985 liquidation.

Financially troubled Stadnyk handed the franchise back to United Soccer Leagues, who kept the Whitecaps on life support until media-shy tech tycoon Greg Kerfoot rescued the organization Nov. 13, 2002.

"It looked like the teams were going to fold and I feel strongly that Vancouver should have top-flight soccer teams,” he said in a statement at the time.

Kerfoot’s 2005 proposal to build a stadium north of Gastown failed, but the Whitecaps will be the key tenants in the new and improved B.C. Place. Kerfoot assembled a MLS bid with ex-Yahoo COO Jeff Mallett, NBA star Steve Nash and Seagate Technology chairman Steve Luczo. On March 18, 2009. commissioner Don Garber granted the Whitecaps, under president Lenarduzzi, the 17th franchise.


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