So I realize this is a Canucks blog but I didn't know where else to write about my feelings regarding MLS coming to Van City. We are now one year away from Vancouver being the home to the top level of Football in North America when the Vancouver Whitecaps join the MLS which is our version of the English Premier League or Serie A. It is the remnant of the World Cup in 1994 in the USA and replaced the defunct North American Soccer League. Those of you with a bit more vintage than myself may remember that the Whitecaps were NASL Champions back in 1979. It may come as no surprise to most of you that I am extremely pumped up about the MLS coming to Vancouver.There are several reasons for my excitement over the MLS and Vancouver becoming one. First of all there is the fact that the Whitecaps will play the first couple games of their inagural season in the MLS at Empire Fields. Now Empire Fields is basically a community field out at the PNE grounds.
Empire Fields is being converted as we speak into a temporary stadium for use by the BC Lions while their home is being upgraded. The Leos will play there for all of the 2010 and some of the 2011 seasons. Due to BC Place's renovations not being completed in time for the start of the 2011-2012 MLS season the Vancouver Whitecaps will also be using the temporary facility to being their MLS tenure. Here is an artists rendering of the new temporary stadium.
I for one think the return of Football and Canadian Football to the sight of old Empire Stadium is long overdue. That old stadium should never have been torn down to being with and instead should have been upgraded so that today it would be a modern 50,000 seat outdoor stadium with a beautiful view and plenty of links to downtown via public transit. Of course that never happened and instead the old place was torn down taking with it a lot of memories. Empire Stadium was first built so that Vancouver could host the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games or what is now known as just the Commonwealth Games. It is the sight where Roger Bannister ran the miracle mile. The first man ever to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.
This was also the stadium where a little known band called The Beatles played when they were in Vancouver. Not a Beatles fan? Well Elvis Presley himself played Empire Stadium as well. So yeah I am a fan of Empire Stadium. It had it's flaws but nothing some TLC couldn't have fixed and it sure had history. Like hosting a ski jumping (really?) competition. The pictures are striking.
I wished it had never been torn down and I am glad that for a year at least it will be back (sort of).
Another reason I am stoked that Vancouver is rejoining the MLS is because the Whitecaps have a winning tradition. They have won at the level they play at now (A League? or USL or something) and they won when they were in the NASL and Vancouver doesn't have enough winners. The Giants have won a Memorial Cup recently and the Lions win the ocassional Grey Cup but we need more teams with Championship potential and the Whitecaps can be that team. Their current setup is developing elite soccer players all the time and I have no doubt that the staff in place now will take very little time to adjust to the MLS and they will be bringing a winner to BC before too long.
And the final reason I am excited about all of this is the potential for a GREAT rivalry with our Pacific Northwest neighbors in Seattle. Seattle Sounders FC are the current MLS team down the I-5 from the Peace Arch crossing. The Whitecaps and Sounders have had a long running rivalry and once the two teams are back in the same league, and the top league in North America, that rivalry will be ramped up big time. I for one can not wait to head down to Seattle and sing my lungs out in support of the Whitecaps. Plus there will be a nice rivalry with the current poster child for how to run an MLS team, and arguably a large reason why MLS was so eager to come back to Canada, Toronto FC. The teams already play each other for a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League and playing each other in league games will only serve to add to the bad blood between the two sets of fans. Fingers crossed Montreal will be in the MLS soon as well and thus creating another strong rival for our squad.
So there you have it. Three reasons why I am pumped for the start of the Whitecaps journey in the MLS one year from today and you should be pumped too.