Vancouver Whitecaps open 6th season with new players, jerseys and seats
Vancouver's soccer culture expanding as the Whitecaps fill the void in a city hungry for a winner
New jersey, new players, and new seats mark the Whitecaps sixth MLS campaign, which kicks off Sunday in Vancouver. And given the demise of the other sports teams in their BC Place neighbourhood, the soccer squad has a golden opportunity to cash in on a fan base hungry for a winner.
"The biggest challenge is it's a competitive league," team president Bob Lenarduzzi told The Early Edition.
"Last year we finished in second place in our division, third overall. But if we hadn't won our last game, we would have probably been sixth or seventh.'
The Whitecaps also took steps towards becoming a legitimate MLS contender in 2015, winning the Voyageurs Cup for the top Canadian pro team and hosting a playoff game for the first time in club history.
They also enjoyed nearly full stands for the entire season, which is why seating capacity is set to expand from 21,000 to 22,120 for most regular season games, and increase again to 25,000 for the most popular West Coast rivalry matches against L.A., Portland and Seattle.
Lenarduzzi says it's all part of carefully managing the supply and demand curves.
"We don't want to have empty seats in our configuration, so we feel that this is the right move at the right time," he said. "And people have responded by buying tickets as we're making them more available."
Cultivating the fan experience has paid off in higher season ticket sales as well. The Whitecaps now boast 15,500 season subscribers, an increase of 1,500 over last year.
On the field the core of all-star goal keeper David Ousted, defender Kendall Waston and midfielder Pedro Morales remain, while the addition of new players Blas Perez, Masato Kudo and Christian Bolanos will hopefully add more scoring depth.
The Whitecaps kick off their sixth MLS season against the Montreal Impact Sunday, 2:30 p.m. PT at BC Place.
With files from The Early Edition