Vancouver Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi was at McLeod Athletic Park on March 8 to announce that the Whitecaps FC 2 will host a pair of regular season games in Langley on Aug. 21 and Sept. 5. WFC2 are an affiliate team of Major League Soccer's Whitecaps FC.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi was at McLeod Athletic Park on March 8 to announce that the Whitecaps FC 2 will host a pair of regular season games in Langley on Aug. 21 and Sept. 5. WFC2 are an affiliate team of Major League Soccer's Whitecaps FC.

Whitecaps FC2 coming to town

Langley's McLeod Athletic Park will host two matches for Vancouver affiliate soccer squad

On Sunday afternoon, Kianz Froese was one of — if not the best — players on the pitch for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the team’s Major League Soccer season debut.

Those were the words of club president Bob Lenarduzzi on Tuesday morning at McLeod Athletic Park.

Lenarduzzi was in Langley for the announcement that the Whitecaps FC 2 (WFC2) — an affiliate squad for Vancouver’s MLS team — will play a pair of games at McLeod Athletic Park this summer.

They will host Arizona United SC on Sunday, Aug. 21 and then the Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Labour Day (Sept. 5). Both matches kick off at 3 p.m.

“(Kianz) is a perfect example of that WFC2 is all about,” Lenarduzzi explained.

Froese, who is now 19, played his first professional game with the club’s affiliate squad  and with the chance to show what he could do, was in the team’s MLS opening-day line-up for 2016.

WFC2 plays in the United Soccer League and is a chance for players to gain experience and training as they aim to crack their respective clubs’ MLS team, the highest-level of professional soccer in North America.

“What you will see at these games, is that type of player,” Lenarduzzi said.

“We absolutely want to win, but that is not the main priority (at this level). Success for us is graduating players from our residency program.”

WFC2 — which kicks off their season on March 26 — plays their home games out of UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.

The team’s 20-player roster ranges in age from 15 to 26 and 16 of the players are between the ages of 18 and 24. And while 13 are from Canada, there are players from the United States, England, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Spain on the roster.

“This will be an excellent opportunity for sports fans to experience this calibre of soccer in their own back yard and the stadium at McLeod Athletic Park will provide the perfect venue for viewing these action-packed matches,” said Township Mayor Jack Froese.

This was Lenarduzzi’s first visit to MAP and he said he was thoroughly impressed with the facility. The park also has a connection to Empire Field — where the Whitecaps temporarily played while BC Place underwent renovations — as the old scoreboard from there now sits at McLeod Athletic Park.

He also didn’t rule out the possibility of more games coming to Langley in the future.

“It is very intimate here, and I love that,” he said. “(If) we have a couple of good turnouts and you never know what can happen.”

The Township had first approached the ’Caps when they were looking at playing their USL games out of Queen’s Park Stadium in New Westminster in 2014. That proposal was ultimately turned down by New Westminster city council.

“For us, it is great to be able to go to the municipality, but it is even better when a municipality is excited about having you,” Lenarduzzi said.

Seating for McLeod Athletic Park is 2,200 but bleachers can be added to increase that to as many as 5,000 if needed. If a team did come to Langley full time, minimum capacity for the venue would need to be 3,500.

The Whitecaps have also partnered with Langley United Soccer Association and more than 500 local youth soccer players will attend and participate in match-day roles.

“There’s nothing more beneficial to young players and their development than having a professional level to strive towards,” said Mike Thomson, vice president of the Langley United Soccer Association.

“Our young players look for mentors to idolize and emulate, that’s what Whitecaps FC give us. We are proud to be able to support Whitecaps FC because they continually mentor and support our players. They set the example of what is possible when you try your hardest and that professional, top level, competitive soccer isn’t out of reach for local players.”