Should Canadians Support the Successful Whitecaps?

Canadians aren’t wrong in supporting Vancouver, if it means the country’s soccer culture will grow
by Henrik Lonne   |   Wednesday, October 03, 2012

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

In spite of my lack of faith in them, the Vancouver Whitecaps are the best bet for a Canadian MLS Cup champion this season. And this raises a serious question for Canadian soccer fans: If other Canadian fans want to support the growth of Canadian soccer, should they cheer on Vancouver in its attempt to make the postseason?

MLS has a requirement of three Canadian players for the Canadian teams. Vancouver has four players registered as Canadians: Caleb Clarke (0 MLS minutes in 2012), Bryce Alderson (0 MLS minutes in 2012), Russell Teibert (117 MLS minutes) and Alain Rochat (2,082 MLS minutes). The first team’s coaching staff is comprised of Americans and Europeans.

See where I am going? 

D.C. United on the other hand has two Canadian internationals in Dwayne de Rosario and Dejan Jakovic, who both have seen significant playing time in 2012. The team is also overseen by Canadian assistant coach Pat Onstad.

Out on the West Coast, Canadian Frank Yallop, coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, is in a good position to add a third MLS Cup to his resume. He’s put on a unique performance by a Canadian coach, which can only serve to inspire other Canadian coaching talent.

Houston Dyamo, Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas each have one Canadian player, but in terms of volume and impact, these teams’ Canadian contribution can’t rival San Jose and D.C.

D.C. United and San Jose can make strong cases for Canadians to support them over the Whitecaps. With good results and performances, they are offering better chances for Canadians than Vancouver is right now.

By virtue of this logic, we should all expect to see Montreal and Toronto fans throwing their support behind D.C. United. I’m sure Jeff will be happy about that.

This logic, however, is flawed. Growth and development needs to be seen in the long run, and in that perspective, the Canada’s men’s national team or the sport in general in Canada don’t benefit much from D.C. winning, in spite of the Canadian contribution.

What would benefit them would be a Canadian team hoisting the MLS Cup, with the prestige and the money attached to that feat.

On the other hand, the decision to place short term success ahead of exposing Canadian talent to MLS play does place pressure on the organization to succeed. And, if Canadian players don't grow and get support, then the national team and soccer culture may fall to the wayside, too.

If we do not see an increase in Canadian soccer fandom in Vancouver in the following years, after two seasons of limited playing time for Canadians for the Whitecaps, the club should be embarrassed and Canadian soccer fans should be disappointed.

Montreal Impact and Toronto FC fans should allow themselves to swallow their pride and support the Whitecaps’ playoff ambitions – it isn’t bush league or against the spirit of soccer.

It’s not uncommon for fans across the world to rally behind one team, even their rivals, if they have the chance to see their country represented well and succeed. There’s national pride at stake. Although it can’t be compared directly, but I think the argument can be made.

Canadian soccer fans should see the bigger picture here. It’s not about supporting the Whitecaps over TFC or the Impact. It is, simply, supporting the growth of Canadian soccer.

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.