2024 is a big year for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

They look to build on 2023’s success and go to new heights. It is also their golden jubilee, their 50th anniversary. The Whitecaps were born in 1974 and have gone through many ups and downs in many different leagues.

The world was different in 1974. There were two Germanys and the Soviet Union was still around and at the height of its power. Richard Nixon was president of the United States and resigned in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. Bellbottoms and elongated collars were in style. The highest-grossing movie was The Towering Inferno starring Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. The cost of a house in Vancouver in 1974 was (Oh My God!) around $51,000. It really was a different time.

Technology, fashion, the housing market and soccer have changed since 1974. What hasn’t changed is the passion of Whitecaps fans in Vancouver and beyond.

We’re going to go over 50 years of Whitecaps history with 50 fun facts. Some of these you might know already, but you might not know some of them. We will go through the Whitecaps’ founding and their NASL days to the MLS era.

I did a lot of research on this article over the past few weeks, It was not just from the internet but also from a couple of books. Bob Lenarduzzi: A Canadian Soccer Story by Bob Lenarduzzi and Jim Taylor as well as Alphonso Davies: A New Hope by Farhan Devji played a big part in researching this article.

#1:The original Whitecaps were founded in a Downtown Vancouver hotel

The date was December 11, 1973, and there was a big announcement. Vancouver’s NASL franchise was born on that day on the top floor of a hotel on Davie Street in Downtown Vancouver. The Whitecaps were Vancouver’s first professional soccer team since the Vancouver Royals, who played just one season in the United Soccer Association (Abbreviated as USA, which is ironic for a team playing in Canada) and made the jump to the USL in 1968. They only lasted one season before folding but the great Ferenc Puskás coached them.

#2: Herbert Capozzi was the first owner

Herbert Capozzi (or just Herb) was one of the people in the Davie Street hotel on December 11, 1973. He led the ownership group to bring pro soccer back to Vancouver. A former CFL player with the Montreal Alouettes and Calgary Stampeders, racketball player and BC Lions general manager, (He led the Lions to their first Grey Cup win in 1964) Capozzi was owner, president and chairman of the Whitecaps during their time in the NASL.

Not only did he bring pro soccer back to Vancouver, but he helped bring McDonalds to Canada and co-founded the Keg Restaurant chain with George Tidball. So next time you are having a Big Mac before (or during or after) a Whitecaps game, be thankful for Capozzi. Sadly, he passed away on November 21, 2011, from tongue cancer.

#3: The Whitecaps got their name from Denny Veitch driving over the Lions Gate Bridge

How did the Whitecaps get their name? It was because Denny Veitch, one of the club’s founders and their general manager was driving across the Lions Gate Bridge and he looked around. As the story goes, he was driving over the bridge and saw the white caps on the mountains and the waves on the water. Then, it was settled, he knew what Vancouver’s new soccer team would be called: The Whitecaps.

#4: Vancouver native Glen Johnson was their first player

You can’t have a team without players and the Whitecaps signed their first-ever player from England. While he played in England, he was Vancouver-born and raised. Glen Johnson played for the Vancouver Spartans of the Western Canadian Soccer League and in 1969, he scored six goals in an 8-2 win over the Calgary Buffalo Kickers on May 18. In July, Johnson signed for West Bromwich Albion on trial after being scouted by manager Alan Ashman when they were touring in Canada. But he played just three league games with West Brom because of a knee injury. In 1974, Johnson couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sign for a new professional club in his hometown.

“The team didn’t have a coach yet,” said Johnson in 2014. “I was there at the press conference with owner Herb Capozzi and general manager Denny Veitch as they announced the name of the club and myself as the first signing.”

#5: Their first head coach was Jim Easton

On Valentine’s Day of 1974, Jim Easton was named the Whitecaps’ first head coach. Easton was 33 at the time of his hiring. He was just coming off a 13-year playing career that saw 300 appearances with Hibernian, Dundee, Queen Of The South (As player-manager and now that is the name of a real soccer team in Scotland, not a BC Ferry. I know, it sounds like one.) and the Miami Toros of the NASL.

Easton wanted to mix local and international talent.

“The standard in the NASL is improving every year,” he said according to AFTN. “We’ll need to recruit strongly to be competitive.”

The Whitecaps did just that but according to Lenarduzzi in his book, Easton said his only problem with Canadian players was convincing them they belonged and were better than any club in the NASL. But he often recruited more Canadian players.

Easton was fired after the 1975 season. His son, Jim Easton Jr played for the Vancouver 86ers and was named vice president of soccer operations of the CPL in 2018 and held the role until August of 2023.

#6: Empire Stadium had turf

BC Place’s turf is often a cause for debate and memes on Whitecaps Twitter these days. Turf is rough to play on and the ball bounces weirdly. Well, the original Empire Stadium had turf.

Lenarduzzi described the turf of Empire Stadium thoroughly in his book:

“Okay, the field’s artificial turf resembled green paint spread over asphalt, and anyone foolish enough to attempt a slide tackle, as years of instinct and training insisted we did, would feel like he was leaving chunks of his a** in his wake. By halftime, bloodied buttocks were like part of the uniform. When it rained, the water sat on top of the turf, sometimes so deep that if you had any momentum when you fell you turned bodysurfer and could slide for yards.”

As rough as BC Place’s turf was, it seems like it was soft as bed sheets compared to the turf of Empire Stadium. At least we don’t see players with bloodied buttocks at BC Place.

#7: The Whitecaps sometimes played indoors

While the Whitecaps played outdoors at Empire Stadium, they sometimes had to play indoors. Why? No, it wasn’t because of the rain or the turf but because the NASL also had an indoor league in tournament form in 1971, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1983. There was also an indoor league in season form from 1979 to 1984.

The Whitecaps played the indoor games at the Pacific Coliseum and when it was unavailable, they played at the PNE Agrodome.

#8: Their first game was a 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes

The Whitecaps played their first-ever game on May 5, 1974. It was against the San Jose Earthquakes at Empire Stadium. The game ended in a 1-1 draw but the Earthquakes won the decisive penalty shootout.

17,343 fans were at Empire Stadium to witness the Whitecaps’ first game. The first goal was scored by Neil Ellet, a Canadian defender. There is no footage of the game (that I can find) but according to Lenarduzzi, Ellet scored by jamming the ball through a bunch of players who were standing in front of the net. It was basically your average hockey goal.

#9: The Whitecaps finished their first NASL season with a 5-4-11 record

Like pretty much any expansion team, (except for the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights and 2023 St. Louis City SC) the Whitecaps did poorly in their first season.

Their first win came in their second game which was on May 11. Brian Gant scored the winner in a 1-0 win over the Denver Dynamos at Empire Stadium. But that was the first of just five wins. The Whitecaps finished 11th in the NASL overall standings (out of 15 teams) gave up 30 goals and scored 29.

#10: Most of the 1974 team were Canadian and many were BC-born

Out of all the 19 players that were on the Whitecaps’ 1974 squad, 11 of them were Canadian. Sam Lenarduzzi was born in Udine, Italy but was raised in Vancouver so he counted as a Canadian.

But eight of the Canadian players were born in Vancouver or the nearby suburbs. They were Bob Lenarduzzi, Neil Ellet, Brian Gant, Glen Johnson, Darryl Samson, Doug Scorse, Gary Thompson and Bruce Wilson.

It must have been nice for those players to play for their hometown team. You would think the fans would’ve loved cheering for hometown heroes…

#11: …But the club faced backlash for that

You are asking why. Well, Bob Lenarduzzi in his book said that after the 1974 season, fans were wondering why they should pay to watch a team full of local players when they could wait until BC Soccer’s fall and winter season. (The NASL regular season ran until August and the playoffs concluded in September)

Those games were free and many of the Whitecaps players played during the fall and the winter seasons. Veitch talked to the local players and told them if they wanted to stay with the Whitecaps, they would have to stop playing in the fall and winter. That was easier said than done. Remember, in 1974 soccer players were getting paid pennies compared to what they are getting paid nowadays and the fall and winter leagues were a way for the several players to keep playing and make some more money.

Veitch’s message went through and the players who played with BC Soccer teams in the fall and winter quit their teams and played with the Whitecaps full-time. The fans still weren’t happy but it took time for them to be.

#12: Pele visited Vancouver in 1975 and 1977

The New York Cosmos were the NASL’s most storied team. They won five Soccer Bowls, seven regular season titles and seven division titles. They also had some superstars play for them. The Warner Brothers-owned team had Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia, the German sweeper Franz Beckenbauer, the famous Brazilian right-back Carlos Alberto Torres and the Brazilian legend himself, Pele.

On July 7, 1975, the Cosmos visited Vancouver to play a friendly against the Whitecaps at Empire Stadium. New York beat Vancouver 2-1 thanks to goals from Israeli international Mordecai Spiegle and Sergio Zanatta scored for the Whitecaps. 26,995 was the attendance that day. Despite Pele not scoring, the crowd was impressed with his passes and touches.

Almost two years later, on June 30, 1977, the Whitecaps again faced Pele but also faced Chinaglia and Beckenbauer at Empire Stadium. But this time, it was a league match. The Whitecaps came out victorious with Derek Possee and Buzz Parsons scoring twice in a 5-3 victory. 30,277 packed Empire Stadium and the match caused a traffic jam on the Second Narrows Bridge.

“If they didn’t like that, we’d better get this team out of town,” said Bruce Wilson on the fans as the team left the pitch per Lenarduzzi’s book.

#13: The Whitecaps made their first playoff appearance in 1976…but lost in the first round

The Whitecaps made the NASL playoffs for the first time in 1976. They had a 14-10 record and finished third in the Pacific Conference. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round to the Seattle Sounders at the Kingdome.

#14: At the age of 36. Alan Hinton set the NASL record for most assists in a season

Alan Hinton played 14 years in the English First Division with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Nottingham Forest, and Derby County.

He joined the Whitecaps in 1978 and was a player/assistant coach. But the English left winger had 30 assists and that became an NASL record. It turns out, the 1978 season was Hinton’s last season as a professional soccer player. Setting a record is an outstanding way to end a career.

#15: The Whitecaps fight song is based on the Chelsea fight song

White is the Colour has been sung by Whitecaps fans before many games over the years. For unknown reasons, it hasn’t been sung in recent years.

But the song is based on Chelsea’s fight song, Blue is the Colour. The song was recorded by members of the 1972 Chelsea team to coincide with the 1972 League Cup Final. They lost to Stoke City.

The Whitecaps’ version has some lyric changes. White was changed to blue, football was changed to soccer and so on.

#16: The team recorded the song after drinking beer at No.5 Orange and Robbie Campbell was way too caught up in the moment

Lenarduzzi wrote about how the song came to be in his book. It was then-general manager John Best’s idea and it seemed that he wanted the team to record the song so it could get radio play and give the team free publicity.

Hinton, one of the older guys on the team was in charge of the whole thing. He decided the team would sing better if they got drunk. So, Hinton and the Whitecaps went to a club called No.5 Orange. (Still exists to this day.) and drank a lot of beer and they recorded White is the Colour. It took a few takes but they apparently did well.

Northern Irish striker Robbie Campbell had too much fun recording the song. According to Lenarduzzi, Campbell yelled “You f**kers!” after each sentence. Fortunately, the engineers managed to cut it all out and the song got some radio play and its record sold around 10,000 copies.

However, the version heard at BC Place was not the drunk 1978 Whitecaps version. The version heard was a modern version recorded by The Proclaimers in 2002. Yes, the same band that sang “500 Miles.”

I would love to hear the drunk 1978 Whitecaps version or better yet, (I know it’s been long destroyed but still) the version with Campbell’s expletives after every sentence.

#17: Tony Waiters only expected to be the Whitecaps head coach for a short time

The Whitecaps parted ways with head coach Eckhgard Krautzan halfway through the 1977 season. Tony Waiters was brought in as head coach and it was a few months after being fired by Plymouth Argyle. The former Blackpool and Burnley goalkeeper took the Whitecaps job and he and his family saw it as a “working holiday. Waiters expected to head back to England after a few months when he new job opportunity came.

Little did Waiters or anyone else know, his “working holiday” would extend for decades and he would help shape the soccer landscape not just for Vancouver but Canada.

#18: Jim McKay did not mean to call Vancouver a village

The Whitecaps finished the 1979 NASL season as NC Western Division champions, third place in the National Conference standings and fourth in the overall NASL standings. They also made it to the Conference Championships for the first time. Standing in their way were Chinaglia, Beckenbauer and the Cosmos. They won the first game over New York 2-0 at Empire Stadium and looked to punch their ticket to the Soccer Bowl at Giants Stadium.

During the game, ABC Broadcaster Jim McKay made this comment: “Vancouver must be like a deserted village right now.” The fans watching back in Vancouver got kind of ticked off at the comment but the “Village of Vancouver” became the the rallying cry for the Whitecaps. But according to McKay made the village comment because he was referring to people being glued to their TV screens to watch the game. Therefore, he made an analogy that Vancouver was deserted as people were watching the Whitecaps take on the Cosmos. But let’s face it, village was not the best word choice.

Nonetheless, “The Village of Vancouver” became well-known across North America and has been remembered in the decades since.

#19: The Whitecaps and Cosmos played the longest game in NASL history

As the MLS does with the first round of the playoffs these days, the playoff rounds except the Soccer Bowl were decided by series. The first to win two games won the series just like in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs today.

Did they do a decisive third game? Nope. It was decided by a thirty-minute “mini-game.” Chinaglia scored both of the Cosmos goals and John Craven and Willie Johnston scored the goals for the Whitecaps. (Johnston’s goal tied the game in the 85th minute.) However, the Whitecaps lost in the penalty shootout.

The series was now tied 1-1. Did they do a decisive third game? Nope. It was decided by a thirty-minute mini-game. The mini-game ended scoreless. According to Lennarduzzi’s book, it looked like Carl Valentine scored the winner in the mini-game. But after a lot of arguing from Chinaglia with the linesman, it turned out it wasn’t a goal but a corner kick as Beckenbauer headed the ball over the back line.

Since the mini-game ended scoreless, the series would be decided with yet another penalty shootout…

#20: The Whitecaps ended up advancing to the Soccer Bowl after Neisi Morais forgot the shootout rules

The Whitecaps struggled with penalties that year. They only won one that season and they were about to take part in their second penalty shootout of the evening and they lost the first one.

But they couldn’t have picked a better time to exorcise the penalty shootout demons. They won the shootout 3-2 and Lennarduzzi, Valentine and Derek Possee (who famously chipped the ball past Cosmos goalkeeper Hubert Birkenmeier) scored in the shootout. After Alan Ball was stopped by Birkenmeier, Neisi Morais had the chance to extend the shootout.

Back in those days, penalty kicks started with the player starting from the 35-yard line. Morais scored past Phil Parkes…but it didn’t count. That was because the player had to take the shot within five seconds and Morais was too late. Due to his blunder, the Whitecaps beat the Warner Bros-owned and star-studded Cosmos team and were off to the Soccer Bowl! Take that Bugs Bunny.

#21: The Whitecaps faced the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the 1979 Soccer Bowl which was being held at Giants Stadium…and were heavily booed

A week after they triumphed over the Cosmos, the Whitecaps returned to Giants Stadium to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies for NASL supremacy.

According to Lenarduzzi’s book, there were 66,843 tickets sold for the Soccer Bowl. But the actual attendance was 50,699. That was probably because those 16,144 fans were confident that the Cosmos would play in the Soccer Bowl in their own stadium but were so upset that a team from the Village of Vancouver beat them and they just stayed home.

The fans that did show up let the Whitecaps have it. They were booed throughout warmups, the player introductions and throughout the game.

#22: …And they beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies to win the Soccer Bowl!

To make things worse for the hecklers, the Whitecaps ended up beating the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 to win the Soccer Bowl.

Trevor Whymark got Vancouver on the board in the 13th minute but the Rowdies’ Jan Van Der Veen tied it up 10 minutes later. Whymark scored the match-winner in the 60th minute and both of his goals were assisted by Ball, who was named Man of The Match.

According to Lenarduzzi in his book, the team went back to their hotel to celebrate but their bags were all in the lobby. Why? It was because the people of New York and New Jersey expected the Cosmos to be in the final and there wouldn’t be any accommodation. Instead, their rooms were occupied by people attending a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Fortunately, the Whitecaps decided to go to a Holiday Inn and they celebrated their Soccer Bowl triumph throughout the night.

#23: The parade brought out over 100,000 people lining the streets of Downtown Vancouver

On the flight home, the Whitecaps were told they would be having a parade to celebrate their triumph. Lenarduzzi wrote that the team was worried that no one would show up. The Whitecaps did capture the hearts of the city but weren’t the Canucks or Lions.

However, over 100,000 lined the streets of Downtown Vancouver to welcome their heroes home. Fans climbed lamp posts, and buses and watched from the high floors of buildings to get a glimpse of the Soccer Bowl trophy and their heroes riding open-top convertibles.

If you were there, you would probably remember the huge crowd. It might have been as big as the crowds during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Vancouver will probably never see a crowd as big as the 1979 Whitecaps parade or the 2010 Olympics again…well that is until the Vancouver Canucks win the Stanley Cup, if they ever do.

As the celebrations concluded, Mayor Jack Volrich shouted into the microphone: “We’re going to build a stadium!”

#24. The Whitecaps played their first game at BC Place against the Seattle Sounders in front of over 60,000 people.

You guessed it, the stadium was BC Place. It opened on June 19, 1983. It was a large venue with a giant air-supported roof that looked like a giant marshmallow. The next day, the first sporting event at the stadium was held and it was the Whitecaps against the Seattle Sounders.

60,341 attended the game and to make things better, the Whitecaps beat the Sounders 2-1 thanks to a brace from Peter Beardsley. The Whitecaps were coming upon a decade in the NASL. They’ve won the Soccer Bowl, developed a passionate fanbase and moved into a shiny new home. What could go wrong?

#25: But in 1984…the NASL and the Whitecaps folded

The NASL has a lot of teams over its 16-year history. In fact, that was one of the reasons why it folded. By 1978, the league grew from 18 to 24 from the year before. That’s a good thing, right? It was at first but not in the long term. Since the league expanded so much, they couldn’t afford to run it. The economic recession of the early 1980s, plus disputes with the players union made things worse and killed the league. The late 70s and early 80s marked the slow and gradual decline of the NASL.

Teams folded in the early 80s including the Cosmos and the Sounders. Many teams moved cities so much like they were trains stopping at stations. For example, the Oakland Stompers became the Connecticut (later Hartford) Bicentennials then the Edmonton Drillers before folding in 1982.

The Whitecaps finished the 1984 season second in the Western Division and they lost in the semi-finals to the Chicago Sting, the eventual champions. By this point, the NASL only has nine teams including the Whitecaps. It turned out 1984 was the last year of the NASL and it suspended operations for 1985 and hoped to return in 1986, but it never happened.

Just over five years after winning the Soccer Bowl, the Whitecaps were no more.

#26: A few members of the 1979 Whitecaps team played for Canada in the 1986 World Cup

Canada’s Men’s National Team qualified for their first FIFA World Cup in 1986, which was being held in Mexico. They booked their ticket after a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Unfortunately, Canada lost all three of their group-stage games at the World Cup and went home early. Three members of the 1979 Whitecaps Soccer Bowl were a part of Canada at that World Cup: Carl Valentine, Bob Lenarduzzi and Tony Waiters, who was their head coach of Canada.

#27: The 1979 team was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame

The 1979 Soccer Bowl-winning Whitecaps squad was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. In 2011, they were inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame. Not only did they shape soccer in Vancouver and BC, but across Canada as they were the only Canadian team to win the Soccer Bowl.

#28: The Vancouver 86ers came into existence after the Canadian Soccer League was formed. Waiters and Lenarduzzi were among the members that brought them into existence

Following Canada’s qualification for the 1986 World Cup, the CSA formed a new league, the Canadian Soccer League which began the following year. Of course, they wanted to have a team in its third-largest city because it wouldn’t be ideal if they didn’t.

Waiters approached Lenarduzzi and asked him if he was interested in playing and coaching the new Vancouver team while they were in Mexico during the World Cup. Lenarduzzi was also asked if he would be the face of the new franchise and help get interest and season ticket deposits. Of course, he said yes.

Lenarduzzi would go into pubs and small group gatherings pitching the new soccer team. So, the Vancouver 86ers were born. Lenarduzzi and Waiters were among the members that founded the 86ers. How many members were there? 86.

#29: They were named because of the impact of Expo 86, the city of Vancouver’s founding (1986), Canada’s World Cup qualification and the year they were founded…but their name almost was more soccer-like

The 86ers are a unique name due to the reasons stated above. 86 is a significant number in Vancouver’s history and the name was perfect for the new soccer team. However, they almost went a different name that was commonly used in soccer.

“We were initially going to call the team Vancouver United, but we felt that it was too British,” said Waiters to WhitecapsFC.Com in 2010.

Not only it was too British but Vancouver United sounds so bland. It doesn’t have the same edge as the Vancouver 86ers. Thankfully, they didn’t go with that.

#30. The 86ers won their first game 4-2 over the Edmonton Brick Men

On June 7, 1987, professional soccer returned to Vancouver. The 86ers played their first-ever match against the Edmonton Brick Men. lead by Lenarduzzi who was player-manager. The Brick Men sounded like a fictional team based out of The Lego Movie or something. Anyway, the 86ers drew 7,646 people at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium and won 4-2. Valentine who also was part of the group that created the 86ers scored the club’s first-ever goal.

The 86ers would finish the 1987 season losing in the playoff semi-finals to the Calgary Kickers, the eventual CSL champions. But that was only the beginning of something greater.

#31. The 86ers hold a North American Sports Record

Believe it or not, the 86ers hold the North American Sports Record for most games without a defeat. Yes, it’s not an NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL team that holds that record, it is held by a soccer team that played in a league that doesn’t exist anymore.

The 86ers went 46 straight games without a loss from 1988 to 1991. That was 37 wins and nine draws. According to Vancouver Is Awesome,it beats the record set by the Philadelphia Flyers who went 35 games without a loss in the 1979-80 season.

#32. They also won four straight CSL titles, the most in the league’s history

All that winning meant league titles. The 86ers became the dynasty of the CSL winning four straight CSL titles from 1988 to 1991. The 86ers beat the Hamilton Steelers in three straight finals and the Toronto Blizzard in the fourth one. They almost went for five in 1992 but lost the final to the Winnipeg Fury.

#33. The CSL folded but the 86ers didn’t

The 86ers 1992 season was their last in the CSL. That was because the league folded due to financial issues. Fortunately, Vancouver did not lose its soccer team this time.

The 86ers, along with the Montreal Impact and Blizzard joined the American Professional Soccer League in 1993. But that league merged with the USISL Select League in 1996 due to many of its players joining the newly formed Major League Soccer. That league became the A-League and was later renamed the USL First Division in 2005. The 86ers were along for the whole ride.

#34. Domenic Mobilio led the 86ers/Whitecaps and the CSL in goals

One of the reasons why the 86ers had so much success in the CSL was because of striker Domenic Mobilio. The striker was born and raised in Vancouver and pretty much spent his entire career in his hometown. He grew up a fan of the NASL Whitecaps and was one of the first players the 86ers signed and he was just 18 years old.

In over 14 seasons, with the 86ers/Whitecaps, Mobilio scored 170 goals. He is their all-time leading scorer of that era and the all-time leading scorer of the CSL. That included a 25-goal season in 1991 and he was named the CSL’s MVP. Only Chinaglia of the Cosmos had more goals than Mobilio in North American Soccer History. Mobilio retired in 2001.

Sadly, Mobilio died in 2004 at just 35 years old in Burnaby while driving home from a friend’s house. He had just played a game of amateur soccer.

The Whitecaps have honoured Mobilio’s legacy. The number 10 is retired in honour of him and their leading goalscorer award is called the Domenic Mobilio Golden Boot Award.

#35. The Whitecaps name returned at the turn of the century

The 86ers decided to go into the new millennium by bringing back something from the past. Local businessman David Stadnyk bought the team in August of 2000. He was inspired by the history of soccer in Vancouver and he bought the Whitecaps name from NASL Whitecaps director John Laxton. On October 26, 2000, the name change was official and the team began the 2001 season as the Vancouver Whitecaps.

#36: After going through many owners, the Whitecaps were once again on the verge of folding in 2002…until Greg Kerfoot stepped in

Stadnyk was among many owners who owned the 86ers/Whitecaps. Among the numerous owners was David Braley, who also owned the BC Lions.

The Whitecaps were in financial trouble and Stadnyk decided to sell the club halfway through the 2002 season. The USL desperately wanted to find a new owner for the club as quickly as possible. The league had bills to pay and if the Whitecaps didn’t have a new owner, they could have folded again.

According to Lenarduzzi in his book, Stadnyk fired him (Lenarduzzi was general manager and head of soccer operations at the time) over an argument about how the club should be run shortly before he put them up for sale. The USL then asked Lenarduzzi to come back to help find the new owner.

Several people expressed interest but they were just kicking the tires as Lenarduzzi put it. One day he got a call from a local businessman named Mark James. His wife Ally was a fan of the Whitecaps women’s team and a devoted soccer player herself. She read about the Whitecaps’ plans and convinced Mark to give Lenarduzzi a call.

James told Lenarduzzi about a guy named Greg Kerfoot. He said that he would call him if he was interested in purchasing the club. A few days later, Lenarduzzi did get a call from Kerfoot.

Lenarduzzi summed it up perfectly in his book: “Greg Kerfoot? Who in blazes was Greg Kerfoot?”

It turns out Kerfoot wanted to give back to his community. After some talking with Lennarduzzi, Kerfoot officially took over as Whitecaps owner on November 13, 2002.

#37: Kerfoot values his privacy and watches everything from the shadows

Not much is known about Kerfoot. According to an article from the Globe and Mail written by Matthew Sekeres and David Ebner in March of 2011, Kerfoot grew up in Burnaby and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from UBC in 1983. He eventually joined a startup called Crystal Services which ran a software program called Crystal Reports. To sum it up, he made so much money he could buy groceries in this current economy and still have enough money for car payments. If his name sounds familiar, it is because his son is current NHL player Alex Kerfoot, who plays for the Arizona Coyotes.

The question nowadays isn’t: “Who in blazes is Greg Kerfoot?” It is: “Where in blazes is Greg Kerfoot?” Only a handful of people have spoken to him and know what he looks like. The truth is, Kerfoot is a very private guy and likes to stay in the shadows like Batman lurking around Gotham. But unlike Batman, there are no warning signs for Kerfoot and he never leaves the shadows. He refuses to do interviews or show up to the press conferences. Kerfoot does watch games and training sessions but roams around.

“He loves watching from every angle,” said then Whitecaps CEO Paul Barber via the Province in 2011. “He just loves the game and, in owners, it’s such a good thing to have that level of engagement. It’s unusual, but all our owners love the game.”

So if you have been to a Whitecaps game, you might have come across Kerfoot and not have known it. I might’ve had too. Kerfoot could be anywhere but likes to stay hidden. Who knows? He might come across this article and be ticked off that he was even mentioned.

#38: The Whitecaps apparently trained at Clinton Park and other places around the Vancouver area because they did not have a permanent training facility.

The Whitecaps currently train at the National Soccer Development Centre at UBC. It opened in September 2017. Wait, 2017? So where did the Whitecaps train before then? Well, they trained in various places around the Vancouver area.

In the USL days, they trained at Clinton Park in East Vancouver according to Lenarduzzi’s book. He told Kerfoot about it two months after he took over and the rich software man said they needed to build a training facility. It took about 15 years but better late than never!

#39: In the USL, the Whitecaps were two-time champions

Ok, back to the soccer. The USL First Division Whitecaps enjoyed success and never missed the playoffs. They were USL Champions in 2006 beating the Rochester Raging Rhinos 3-0 in Rochester. They won their second title in 2008 as they beat the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 at Swangard Stadium. The Whitecaps made the final again the following year but lost to the Montreal Impact 6-3 over two legs.

#40: The Whitecaps hosted David Beckham and the LA Galaxy in a friendly at BC Place in 2007

David Beckham made headlines when he signed for LA Galaxy in 2007. The English superstar also changed MLS forever as his signing with the Galaxy paved the way for many other European stars to sign in MLS.

But in 2007, Beckham visited Vancouver. The date was November 7, 2007, and the USL Whitecaps played a friendly against Beckham and the Galaxy and 48,172 came to BC Place to watch. The game ended in a 0-0 draw but it drew the people of Vancouver’s attention to MLS and the Whitecaps. This game was a catalyst for bringing the MLS to Vancouver.

#41: The Whitecaps were awarded an MLS team in 2009…but they could’ve had a different owner

Vancouver awarded an MLS franchise in 2009 and they eventually kept the Whitecaps name. Kerfoot wasn’t alone this time. NBA star Steve Nash, former Yahoo president and COO Jeff Mallett Boston Celtics part-owner and Seagate Technology president, chairman, and CEO Steve Luzco joined in to help Vancouver’s bid to join MLS become successful. As you know, the four of them still own the club to this day and Nash is still hanging tough.

But it could’ve been someone else at the helm.

In 2008, it was reported that Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini was inspired by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment-owned Toronto FC and was interested in bidding for an MLS franchise. Toronto FC was drawing crowds of over 20,000. According to Sports Business Journal, Aquilini and Kerfoot had several talks about making a bid together. But in the end, the only bid that was submitted was the one from Kerfoot, Mallett, Luzco and Nash.

Imagine if Aquilini and Kerfoot made a bid together or Aquilini outbid him. Could you imagine the amount of “man so tight” Tweets that he would’ve made during Whitecaps games?

#42: Jay DeMerit was their first signing of the MLS era and Erik Hassli was the first Designated Player

Centreback Jay DeMerit spent six years with English Championship side Watford and he helped get them promoted to the Premier League in 2006. Unfortunately, Watford were relegated back to the Championship a year later. He also played 25 caps for the US men’s national team and was on the squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. DeMerit started all four of the US’ 2010 World Cup games. The Whitecaps announced they signed DeMerit as the first player of their MLS era on November 18, 2010, and he was named captain right away.

French striker Eric Hassli joined the Whitecaps as their first Designated Player on March 4, 2011. He joined from FC Zurich of the Swiss Super League and scored 28 goals in 84 appearances.

#43: The first game was a memorable 4-2 win over Toronto FC at Empire Field

March 19, 2011, is one of the best days in the Whitecaps’ 50-year history. It was the day of their first game of the MLS era. The game was being played at Empire Field which was a temporary ground built on the site of the old Empire Stadium, at Hastings Park right next to the PNE.

The day began with rain. But then it was cloudy and by the time the game kicked off at 3:30 Pacific Time, the clouds made way for the sun. It seemed like the perfect symbol for the dawn of what was hopefully, going to be a great new era of soccer in Vancouver.

The Whitecaps first starting eleven included the likes of DeMerit, Hassli, Michael Boxall, Gershon Koffie and an 18-year-old Russell Teibert. The Whitecaps outplayed Toronto FC and Hassli scored a brace including the first goal of the MLS era 15 minutes into the game. Vancouver native Terry Dunfield scored the second goal 26 minutes in and immediately got a yellow card for taking off his shirt and leaping into the crowd. The third goal was scored by Atiba Harris.

By full-time, it looked like nobody in the stands wanted to leave. They wanted to soak it all in and savour the historic day.

#44: Speaking of Hassli, one of his goals was nominated for the Puskas

Hassli didn’t score a lot of goals when he was with the Whitecaps. But when he did, he scored bangers. One of them was an unbelievable volley from a ridiculous angle on June 11, 2011, against the Seattle Sounders at what was then-named Qwest Field. It has been widely known as one of the greatest goals in MLS history.

But it wasn’t that one that was nominated for the Puskas. It was this missile of a volley against Toronto FC in the first leg of the 2012 Canadian Championship Final first leg at BC Place. The fact that this tied up the match in stoppage time made it even better.

The Puskas was won by Miroslav Stoch that year. He scored an absolute banger for Fenerbache against Gençlerbirliği in a 6-1 win during the 2011-12 Turkish Süper Lig. Hassli’s goal didn’t even make the top three but that doesn’t take away how marvellous that goal was.

 I think the goal against Seattle was better but still, the goal against Toronto makes me want to watch it again and again.

#45: The Whitecaps were the first Canadian team to make the MLS Cup Playoffs

In 2012, the Whitecaps made the MLS Cup Playoffs in just their second season. They were the first Canadian team to make the playoffs. Toronto FC had been in the league in 2007 but did not make the playoffs until 2015. Montreal Impact (Now CF Montreal) came into MLS in 2012 and made the playoffs the following year.

Unfortunately, the Whitecaps were up against Beckham, Landon Donovan Robbie Keane and the mighty LA Galaxy. The Galaxy went on to win their second straight MLS Cup. Darren Mattocks put the Whitecaps ahead in the third minute. However, goals from Michael Magee and Donovan in the second half put the Galaxy through.

Unfortunately, the Whitecaps have lacked playoff success in their MLS era and have only one playoff win. That was the 5-0 knockout round win over the San Jose Earthquakes in 2017.

#46: Camilo won the Golden Boot in 2023…and then left in controversial fashion

With 43 goals across all competitions, Camillo Sanvezzo is the Whitecaps’ all-time leading scorer of their MLS era.

2013 was his best year. He scored 22 goals that season and won the MLS Golden Boot. It was capped off with a hat trick on the final day in a win over the Colorado Rapids at BC Place. It turns out, that game was also Camilo’s last as a Whitecaps.

In the offseason, there were rumours linking him to Rosenborg of the Norwegian Eliteserien and Queretaro of Liga MX in Mexico. Lenarduzzi shut down those rumours and said that Camilo was under contract with the Whitecaps as they picked up the option a few months earlier. But, Camilo was seen training with Queretaro and on January 17, 2014, he officially signed with them for an undisclosed fee.

The Whitecaps called Camilo’s behavior unprofessional but the fans blamed them for the way they handled the situation. To make things worse, Camilo’s agent Lucas Teixeira gave an interview with AFTN via Marc Weber of The Province) and said Camilo did not view the option as an “obligation” and said there was a lack of transparency and dialogue between the club and him. Teixeira even said Camilo waited for hours outside the Whitecaps’ office so he could restart negotiations. A club spokesperson denied the statement according to Weber.

But nonetheless, the fans were betrayed. Not just by the Whitecaps for the way they handled the situation by Camilo bolting off to Mexico so quickly without saying goodbye. The ‘Caps were criticized heavily for years after the Camilo situation because it exposed that they were poorly run. As for Camilo, he is widely seen as a traitor among the fans.

#47: Pedro Morales and David Ousted were two of the best players of the Whitecaps’ MLS era but they had bad blood between them

Pedro Morales was one of the best players of the Whitecaps’ MLS era. He wowed fans with his excellent playmaking skills, dribbling and goal-scoring. He was their captain and is currently third in Whitecaps MLS era goal scoring with 29 across all competitions. Until a certain Scotsman surpassed him in 2023, (more on him later) Morales’ 22 assists were the most of the MLS era.

David Ousted is easily the best goalkeeper the Whitecaps had in their time in MLS. He made some great saves and is the club’s all-time leader among goalkeepers in starts, minutes played, wins, clean sheets, and saves. Ousted was an MLS All-Star in 2015 and 2016.

However, it seemed the two of them never liked each other. Of course, teammates don’t have to be friends but it seemed there was a lot of bad blood between Ousted and Morales. In October of 2016, they got into a heated altercation which had a lot of pushing and swearing.  It started after a scrimmage game and Morales sat down at the halfway line and Ousted asked if he was “checked out.” But that ticked Morales off and Ousted went back to his crease, and the altercation broke out.

Ousted said to Morales: “If you want to fight, then how about fighting on a f**king Saturday,” per AFTN. (The following Saturday was the Whitecaps’ next match.)

It turns out, that altercation with Ousted was the last of Morales as a Whitecap. He signed with Colo-Colo in his native Chile after Vancouver declined his option.

But Morales wasn’t done with his feud with Ousted. When the Whitecaps broadcasted a preseason game live on Facebook in February of 2017, Morales shared his thoughts on who should succeed him as captain in the comments. According to Daily Hive, he wrote: “Not Ousted Pls

Morales is remembered for his brilliant play on the pitch but the feud with Ousted makes his legacy as a Whitecap complicated.

#48: Alphonso Davies almost never became a Whitecap

Born in the Bubuduram refugee camp in Ghana to Liberian parents and raised in Edmonton, Alphonso Davies is currently one of the best players in the world.

But once upon a time, Davies was a teenager playing for the Whitecaps and he signed with their academy when he was 14 years old. He became their youngest debutant on July 16, 2016. He was just 15 years old and he was the second youngest debutant in MLS history behind Freddy Adu. Davies also became the Whitecaps’ youngest goalscorer of their MLS era and the youngest goalscorer in the history of the CONCACAF Champions League. He impressed with his speed, agility and playmaking and he looked like a future star in the making. Davies was a teenager but he quickly became a fan favourite.

But it almost never happened. According to Farhan Devji’s book on Davies, his father Debeah and mother Victoria were concerned with him moving to Vancouver and joining the Whitecaps Academy. They were worried not only because Davies would be by himself in a different city, but they were worried he would change. They were worried their son would be surrounded by bad influences. But the Whitecaps tried to convince them by telling them that Davies would live with a billet family and they would make sure he would stay on top of his education.

Davies went through several trials with the Whitecaps (and blew people away) but another team came knocking. That was FC Edmonton of the NASL, who were in the second tier of North American soccer MLS. (This league had the same name but had no connection to the original NASL.) Thankfully for the Whitecaps, Davies begged his parents to let him go to Vancouver. He promised them that he still would be the same person they knew and loved and he would make them proud. It’s safe to say he did just that.

#49: Davies’ transfer to Bayern Munich was finalized at Edmonton International Airport

Davies’ transfer from the Whitecaps to Bayern Munich in July of 2018 was the biggest sale in MLS history at the time. It was a 13.5 million US Dollar fee which also had performance bonuses that went up to 22 million US.

So Davies signed the dotted line with Bayern Munich in the Whitecaps’ offices on Beatty Street or at the NSDC training facility at UBC right? Nope. According to Devji’s book on Davies, he signed for Bayern Munich in the baggage claim area at Edmonton International Aiport, just steps away from a Tim Hortons. His parents were with him and then Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić laid out the documents and the deal was sealed. It was about 10 or 11 O’Clock at night and several people were walking by. None of them knew they witnessed history being made.

#50: Ryan Gauld has become the Whitecaps’ highest-paid player ever

Since arriving in August of 2021, Ryan Gauld has impressed with his passing, dribbling, goals, defensive work and leadership. The Scotsman was signed to a contract extension until 2027 in January and was named the team’s captain last week.

On his last deal, Gauld earned 2.5 million dollars in base salary per year. On his new deal, he has become the highest-paid player in their history according to Har Johal of Daily Hive. Until the MLS Salary Guide is updated in a few months, the exact number won’t be known but it is clear Gauld got a significant raise.

Gauld and the Whitecaps begin their 2024 campaign and 50th anniversary season on March 2 against Charlotte FC. It looks to be a big year for the Whitecaps and they hope to create more memories for fans this year and for many years to come.

That’s all, folks!

If you made it this far, which I hope you did, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it. It was a grind with many late nights of researching, writing and editing over the past three weeks. I’ve always loved hearing stories of teams and players that came before my time, especially with the Whitecaps. I’ve always loved learning and writing about history, especially the history of sports.

This was a passion project of mine and one that I thought of doing last December. In late January, I decided to take the plunge. If you are an older Whitecaps fan, I hope this article brought back good memories for you and if you are a younger fan like me, I hope you learned a thing or two.

Please forgive me for any typos. I wrote this article (as I do with most of my articles) late at night and I’m only human after all.

Happy anniversary to the Whitecaps. Hopefully, the 50th year will be a great one!