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Whitecaps sign Scottish star midfielder Ryan Gauld to contract extension through 2027

Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ryan Gauld takes a shot against the Seattle Sounders during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Seattle. The Whitecaps have rewarded Gauld with a contract extension through 2027.(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson) Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ryan Gauld takes a shot against the Seattle Sounders during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Seattle. The Whitecaps have rewarded Gauld with a contract extension through 2027.(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
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The Vancouver Whitecaps have signed captain Ryan Gauld to a contract extension through 2027, rewarding their Scottish star playmaker with the richest deal in franchise history.

The signing offers clarity for both the Whitecaps and Gauld, whose existing contract was due to expire at the end of 2024. But for Vancouver sporting director Axel Schuster, it's also a signal of intent.

“It was always our intention to get it done before the season starts,” Schuster said Thursday from Marbella, Spain, where the Whitecaps are training.

“It sends also a message to the team, to our players, to the people in Vancouver, that we are building something here and that we're trying to keep all our core pieces together and add some other additional quality players,” he added. “And having this message out that the most important player - our best player of last season - stays for longer is also a message for every other player that is in a similar situation or players that are thinking about joining our club.”

Schuster declined to put a dollar figure to the contract, saying only “this is the biggest contract ever (that) a player has signed with the Whitecaps and he got a huge (pay) bump.”

“But I think there's no doubt that he deserves it,” he added. “He's Scottish, I'm German so we're not used to putting numbers out.”

A designated player, Gauld was Vancouver's highest-paid player last season at US$2.5 million, according to the MLS Players Association. That put him 22nd on the league payroll.

“I'm just delighted to get the chance to play for the club for another four years and be a part of the city for another four years,” said Gauld. “I'm glad it's all done before the season started and looking forward to what's to come.”

Gauld said the club and city had made him and his fiancee Kat feel so welcome “it was kind of a no-brainer to sign on again.”

He also cited the team's on-field performance in recent years. “There's a lot more we can achieve in Vancouver,” he added.

Schuster said while both sides wanted to seal the new deal, there was more to settle than just a salary, He said there were “many, many pages” with such issues as marketing rights and bonuses having to be agreed on.

Gauld, an attacking midfielder, scored 12 goals and had a team-high 17 assists in 42 appearances, including 40 starts, last year as Vancouver made the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons.

Vancouver beefed up its attack in the off-season, signing free agent forwards Damir Kreilach and Fafa Picault. Schuster said he expects more roster additions.

The Whitecaps open CONCACAF Champions play against Mexico's Tigres on Feb. 7. Their MLS season opener is March 2 against visiting Charlotte FC.

Schuster says he already likes what he sees from the Whitecaps.

“I have to say that this group looks, after two weeks, better than the group looked last year. The players came in in amazing shape. Everyone is ready and everyone is fully energized to take the next step.”

News of the Gauld deal came one day before single-match tickets for Vancouver's regular-season games went on sale.

The club says the upper bowl of B.C. Place Stadium will be open for a minimum of four games during the 2024 MLS season, including the home opener, the franchise's 50th anniversary match against Austin FC on May 4, the game against Inter Miami CF on May 25 and a matchup with 2023 playoff foe Los Angeles FC on Aug. 24.

More than 25,000 tickets have already been sold for the home opener.

Schuster said negotiations with Gauld began immediately before the Oct. 21 final game of the regular season. He said Gauld told him he had stayed out of the negotiating process, with just one update from his agent during his vacation in Scotland.

Gauld joined the Whitecaps in July 2021. Since then he has scored 26 goals and added 34 assists in 94 appearances in all competitions. He was named Whitecaps player of the year in 2022 and '23 and won the George Gross Memorial Trophy in 2022 as Canadian Championship MVP.

Gauld, a product of Scotland's Dundee United academy, came to Vancouver from Portugal's SC Farense. He has also played for Dundee United's senior team and Hibernian in Scotland and Sporting CP, Vitoria Setubal FC and Deportivo Avesh in Portugal.

On other matters, Schuster said veteran goalkeeper Joe Bendik would get some minutes in the next pre-season game as the club looks for some depth behind Japanese starter Yohei Takaoka. The club also has 22-year-old 'keeper Isaac Boehmer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2024.

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