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Grow Your OwnIn a province that hosted the most hockey-mad Winter Olympics in history, the biggest game isn’t played on ice. The B.C. Soccer Association boasts 120,000 registered players (compared to 55,000 in minor-league hockey). Many of these kids’ parents discovered the game at the old Empire Stadium and even participated in annual soccer exchanges with Washington state teams. Vancouver’s moderate climate and multicultural mix mean that B.C. has a bona fide soccer culture.
The Basketball BounceIn 2009 ticket buyers and sponsors switched from the departing basketball SuperSonics to the soccer Sounders, agreeing with club co-owner Drew Carey that the ticket price was right. The Sounders became the biggest expansion success story of recent times, and the Whitecaps stand every chance of following suit. Sure, the Canucks dominate the sports entertainment market, but the Whitecaps arrive boasting greater affordability and accessibility.
Show Me the MerchThe Whitecaps actually began life as the Eighty-Sixers and resurrected the old blue-and-white brand in 2000. The new triple-diamond peaks-and-waves logo and Bell-sponsored jerseys were launched with former VANOC marketing executives at the Twentyten Group, just in time to capitalize on last year’s World Cup. Merchandising sales will add handsomely to the Whitecaps’ bottom line.
Best of EnemiesThe Whitecaps will be measured, on field and off, against Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders. Toronto FC debuted in 2006 and, like the Maple Leafs, take a lot while giving their fans little: sellouts are common, but the team hasn’t made the MLS playoffs. The 2009-born Sounders had a league-leading average attendance of 36,173 in 2010, led in merchandising sales, and successfully defended their U.S. Open Cup championship. Both teams are natural rivals for the Whitecaps, and rivalries sell tickets.
Return to Feature: How the Vancouver Whitecaps Hit the Major Leagues