Vancouver Whitecaps confident unique youth setup will support MLS needs

Vancouver Whitecaps believe their new youth setup will deliver the necessary talent to compete in MLS from 2011.

Vancouver Whitecaps believe their new youth setup will deliver the necessary talent to compete in MLS from 2011.

The Whitecaps have already embarked on a plan to cultivate talent, opening a residency program that mirrors the junior hockey model. Young players have moved to Vancouver, where they live with billets and attend high school while honing their soccer skills at an elite level.

"It's a year-round, full-time program, which doesn't exist anywhere in Canada right now or, I don't think, anywhere in the United States," team president Bob Lenarduzzi said. "MLS is a little more restrictive as to what you can do with regards to signing players."

Lenarduzzi, whose team sold 5,000 season ticket deposits within 48 hours earlier this week, said the franchise has made it clear it does not want "to abandon our youth development model."

"Right now, it's an investment," he told the Vancouver Sun. "And our feeling was, if we were going to go to MLS, we're going to have to start paying significant money for players. And our thought was, 'If we invest now, perhaps we get quality players and we're not searching for as many new players come that time.'"

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