Whitecaps, Impact rivalry to reach major league levels in 2012
Hilary Atkinson, ctvbc.ca
Published Saturday, May 8, 2010 8:42AM PDT
The Vancouver Whitecaps will have a second Canadian rival in Major League Soccer, now that the Montreal Impact are locked in to join the league.
MLS announced Friday the Impact will become the league's 19th team at the beginning of the 2012 season.
"I think it's fantastic," said Bob Lenarduzzi, the president of the Vancouver Whitecaps. "From a technical point of view, it provides players a chance to play at a higher professional level."
Lenarduzzi says he feels the addition will help inspire excitement for soccer in Canada, especially with the World Cup kicking off this summer.
The Impact are already big rivals with the Whitecaps. Their latest matchup ended in a 1-1 draw in the Nutrilite Canadian Championships.
With Vancouver entering into MLS play in 2011, Montreal's arrival in 2012 will only boost enthusiasm.
"There is already a rivalry and I think it will go to a whole new level," said Lenarduzzi about both the Whitecaps and Impact playing MLS.
The Impact currently play in the USSF D-2 Pro League and will be owned by the Saputo Family, which built the team's 13,000-seat stadium.
The Quebec Government announced it will support the expansion with $23 million of funding for a make-over of Saputo Stadium, increasing the number of seats to more than 20,000.
The stadium will hold the growing numbers of MLS fans expected to support the league's Canadian team additions.
"The fans will be the beneficiary as well," said Lenarduzzi. "There will be games across the country. It will upscale the competition around the country and teams will be able to see how they match up against their American counterparts."
MLS debuted with 10 teams in 1996. Toronto FC became the first Canadian team in 2007, and Montreal will be Canada's third MLS team when they hit the pitch in 2012.
With files from The Canadian Press