Vancouver Whitecaps FC is heading in a new direction when it comes to the USL, as the MLS club has announced an affiliation with upstart Fresno FC.
With this arrangement effective for the 2018 season, Whitecaps FC 2 will not be returning to the USL next year. Whitecaps FC 2 played its home games at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver, where its per-game average attendance of 869 fans ranked 29th in the 30-team USL for 2017.
“First of all, we would like to thank every person who has worked tirelessly with Whitecaps FC 2 over the past three seasons,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “With both the USL and Canadian soccer landscapes evolving, now is the right time to make this change for our club. We are delighted to be working with Fresno FC, where the USL will provide the opportunity for high-level competition that will benefit our first team in MLS in the future. We expect that the internal competition for playing time at Fresno FC will provide a tremendous and challenging environment for our top young players.”
“We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to be working with Vancouver Whitecaps FC,” said Fresno FC general manager Frank Yallop said. “Whitecaps FC is a world-class organization and this partnership will allow us to share ideas and knowledge on player and coaching development. I’ve known Bobby Lenarduzzi for 35 years. I knew we could work together and do justice for both clubs with this deal.”
Fresno FC will play its first USL season in 2018. The club is led by Yallop as general manager, a two-time MLS Coach of the Year and former head coach of Canada’s men’s national team. The club also recently hired Adam Smith as its first head coach. Yallop and Smith were in Vancouver last month to meet with Whitecaps FC technical staff.
“Frank and Adam are both great partners to help guide our young players on their professional path,” added Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. “Both have experience in MLS and understand what it will take to push players into our first team as they put a strong, competitive product on the field in the USL for the fans in Fresno.”
Whitecaps FC also confirmed on Friday that WFC2 head coach Rich Fagan will remain with the club as U-19 Residency head coach. Assistant coach Steve Meadley will also continue with the club as a staff coach, and goalkeeper coach Raegyn Hall in the Residency program.
As part of the agreement with Fresno FC, Whitecaps FC will have the ability to assign players to USL contracts to play at the California club, while all players on the roster will be monitored and evaluated for MLS opportunities, as well as call-ups on the USL Short Term Agreement.
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