Major League Soccer announced today that Vancouver has been awarded a Major League Soccer franchise for the 2011 season. The Vancouver franchise will have natural rivalries with Toronto and Seattle who both have MLS teams.
“Having Vancouver in the league helps us create a national sporting landscape for soccer,” said Paul Beirne, Toronto FC’s senior director of business operations. “From a business standpoint it makes the overall business, from a corporate sponsorships standpoint, a little more robust because even though Vancouver is far away, it is a natural rival as one of the three major cities in Canada along with Toronto and Montreal.”
At a press conference announcing the decision, MLS commissioner Don Garber said:
“Our goal is to become one of the world’s best soccer leagues. The addition of Vancouver will help us get to that point.”
The Vancouver Whitecaps currently play in the United Soccer Leagues’ first division. Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot leads the Vancouver ownership group. NBA star Steve Nash is also involved along with San Francisco Giants co-owner Jeff Mallett and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Luczo.
The Vancouver MLS team will play at BC Place. The stadium, 20,000-seat soccer-specific design, will undergo about $292 million in improvements before the club begins playing.
“British Columbians are excited about hosting a Major League Soccer team in a newly renovated BC Place Stadium beginning in 2011,” said British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell in a news conference. “The Vancouver Whitecaps have been a part of our province’s history for more than three decades. As an MLS team, the Whitecaps organization will carry on that incredible tradition, as well as generate economic benefits of up to $25 million each season.””
“The successful bid for a Major League Soccer franchise offers a whole new level of opportunity for our organization and by extension for our city and our province,” Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said.