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Whitecaps president: No discussions with NWSL

The Vancouver Whitecaps, pictured in blue in a 2012 W-League game, have no ongoing discussions with NWSL, club president Bob Lenarduzzi says. (Photo Copyright: Debby von Winckelmann)

The Vancouver Whitecaps have denied reports that they are making a bid to join the NWSL for 2014.

“(The reports) are inaccurate,” Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said. “There haven’t been any discussions (with the league) at this time.”

The denial stands in contrast with an April 14 tweet by SI’s Grant Wahl said that both Vancouver and Toronto were the MLS teams most interested in expansion for the 2014 NWSL season.

The denial does not discount the possibility of a group separate from the Whitecaps being behind a bid, but there are no reports of such a group at this time.

When the Whitecaps scrapped their W-League team at the start of this year, the speculation was that they did so with an eye to fielding a team in the new league next year. However, Lenarduzzi said that the club’s decision was more about what’s best for development than preparing for any future NWSL bid.

He said that there was a feeling that the Whitecaps senior women’s program was lacking a focus and was too reliant on American players. There were better ways to be supportive of the women’s game in British Columbia than by operating a W-League team, Lenarduzzi said.

“We felt that we (could) do something that benefits the women’s game without making a significant investment at the senior women’s level, “ he said.

Instead the ‘Caps chose to put their resources at the younger levels. Lenarduzzi says they have no regrets.

“We’re happy,” he said. “We have a number of good prospects (playing in the elite youth program).

“If we can have an impact there then the best can go on to play for the national teams.”

Lenarduzzi didn’t rule out future involvement by the Whitecaps in the NWSL, but would not put a timeframe on a potential expansion bid.

“We would love for (the NWSL) to be successful. When we feel we’re ready (to return a professional senior women’s team), we hope that it’s there as an option.”

However, for the time being, Lenarduzzi says that the Whitecaps need to focus on the men’s side.

Ultimately, Lenarduzzi says that Canadians need to focus on improving the development pathway for both genders.

“(The women) are not unlike the men,” he said. “I’ve always been an advocate that until we get the development system right we’re just going to keep firing (the national team coaches) every four years.”

Lenarduzzi says that professional soccer is an important part of the equation, but not necessarily professional teams in Canada.

“The important thing is the opportunities (for Canadian players to play professionally)…it would be great if, when they are ready to play professionally, they could do so on a Canadian-based team, but that’s not the most important factor.

“The development system is as important, if not more important, than the professional teams.”

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