How the Vancouver Whitecaps Are Building Canadian Soccer

Putting a reserve team in the USL PRO will benefit both the Whitecaps and Canadian soccer
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, July 10, 2014

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

While running an admirable residency and youth setup, which have produced internationals for both the Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Teams, MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps have not been known for a strong Canadian flavour. Other than Russell Teibert, the minutes for Canadian homegrowns have been sparse.

This is exactly why it is big news that the Whitecaps intend to launch a reserve team in the USL PRO in 2015. In spite of spending a lot of resources on the residency, the Whitecaps have shown very little willingness to give young Canadians a chance on the first team, but hopefully the yet unnamed Whitecaps reserve team can help bridge this gap.

Not only will they give talented youngsters a contract and allow them to play professional soccer, but the proximity of New Westmister – where the new team will play, near University of British Columbia, where the first team practices — also gives the Whitecaps a better chance of monitoring the talent of he USL PRO team and ensuring that the team plays in manner that develops the players the best way.

One USL PRO reserve team – or 3 if Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact join in as well – is not going to magically make Canadian soccer better overnight, but it is an important step as gives more professional opportunities for young Canadian soccer players. Toronto fans has already seen how Jordan Hamilton has benefited from getting playing time at TFC’s affiliate Wilmington, but playing in North Carolina does make it more difficult for Toronto coaches to track his development than if the Reds had a USL PRO team playing in Downsview or in Hamilton.

But while it is clear Toronto and Montreal should follow in Vancouver’s footsteps and also play a team in the USL PRO, this is still not enough. Canadian soccer is still too dependent on the US system. And rather than hedging the country’s soccer hopes on the Yanks, Canada needs a league of its own.

A good first step has already been taken with the semi-professional Ontario League One. This model needs to be spread across the country giving semi-pro opportunities to young Canadians, who currently do not have many options to go professional. If that is successful, one day Canada might not even need to play team in the USL PRO or USL PDL, as it can develop its own players in its own system.

The Vancouver Whitecaps should be applauded for taking the step into the USL PRO, especially if it means that more Canadians will eventually play for the first team. It is however not the only or last step needed to be taken to grow Canadian soccer, but it is a good first one.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.