Whitecaps roll in, 86ers roll out of A-League

The Vancouver Whitecaps are back.

The A-League's Vancouver 86ers will announce Thursday at a news conference at the Vancouver Aquarium that they are taking back the name of the Whitecaps, under which they won the North American Soccer League championship in 1979.

"It's been discussed over the last 14 years -- it's just never happened," Vancouver GM Bob Lenarduzzi, a former Whitecap player, said of the switch.

"It's synonymous with the city, in particular the whitecaps of the water and, to a lesser extent the whitecaps of the mountains," he added.

The name also evokes memories of soccer's heyday in North America, where the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Mueller and Pele demonstrated the beautiful game.

The 86ers will also announce Thursday they are retaining Lenarduzzi as GM and Dale Mitchell, another Whitecaps alumni, as head coach.

The rights to the Whitecaps name had been owned most recently by John Laxton, a former director of the franchise who purchased the rights to the name when the Whitecaps folded.

There have been several attempts to regain the name over the last 14 years but attempts intensified after Vancouver businessman David Stadnyk bought the franchise in August from Hamilton's David Braley for $300,000.

The 86ers were founded in 1986 as a community-owned team, two years after the NASL folded.

The NASL was formed in 1968 when two rival leagues -- the United Soccer Association and the National Professional Soccer League -- merged.

The Vancouver Royal Canadians were a member of the United Soccer Association in 1967 before entering the NASL in 1968 as the Royals, who only lasted a year.

The Vancouver Whitecaps entered the league in 1974 and won the title five years later, defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 in the Soccer Bowl.

Other big games to wear the Whitecaps uniform were Alan Ball, Peter Beardsley, Bruce Grobbelaar, Kevin Hector, Alan Hinton, Peter Lorimer, Phil Parkes, Colin Todd and David Watson.

Veteran English coach Bobby Robson, now with Newcastle, was tabbed to coach in Vancouver in 1967 but the job fell through and he took over London's Fulham instead.

Current Canadian national team coach Holger Osieck is another Whitecaps alumni.

By Neil Davidson