It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
As you’ve surely heard by now, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are off to the playoffs for the third time since joining Major League Soccer in 2011.
Since their inaugural year in 1974, the club has now reached the playoffs in 34 of 40 seasons. Not too shabby. Over that period, Vancouver has won seven championships and posted a 47W-39L-16D combined playoff record.
Below, we look at some highlights from the club’s various playoff runs.
North American Soccer League
Vancouver’s first foray into the playoffs came in 1976, their third year of existence. But when you think of the old NASL days, you think of 1979.
In 1979, the Blue and White became the city’s first professional sports team to win a major North American championship when they defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Soccer Bowl.
The improbable run, which saw the ‘Caps upset the heavily favoured New York Cosmos in the deciding mini-game of the 1979 NASL semifinal in East Rutherford, New Jersey, was a defining moment for the club and the entire City of Vancouver.
Upon return to Vancouver, as many as 100,000 people lined Robson Street to salute their heroes during a championship parade, creating arguably the most historic moment in Whitecaps history.
Canadian Soccer League
While the 1979 Soccer Bowl title is the headliner, Vancouver’s CSL days were no doubt the most successful in club history. After a two-season hiatus, Vancouver returned to the professional soccer scene in 1987 and quickly established a dynasty in the short-lived CSL.
With Bob Lenarduzzi at the helm as head coach, the 86ers qualified for the playoffs in each of their six seasons in the CSL. That included a remarkable four straight league championships from 1988 to 1991 as well an unprecedented 46-match unbeaten streak.
The late Domenic Mobilio was the star of the CSL days, finishing as the team’s top goalscorer in four of their six years.
A-League / United Soccer Leagues / USSF
The Blue and White spent a combined 18 seasons at the North American second division level and they missed the playoffs in just two of them. Among those 16 playoff appearances were a pair of USL-1 championship titles in 2006 and 2008.
In 2006, the ‘Caps finished fourth in the regular season before taking down Miami FC, Montreal Impact, and Rochester Raging Rhinos en route to their first USL-1 title. And then in 2008, Vancouver went on another memorable run culminating in a 2-1 win over first-place Puerto Rico Islanders in the championship final at Swangard Stadium.
Major League Soccer
This is the third time Whitecaps FC have qualified for the playoffs since joining MLS in 2011.
Vancouver’s first MLS playoff match came in 2012, when they met LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Knockout Round. The ‘Caps stunned the eventual MLS Cup champions by taking a 1-0 lead in the third minute, before surrendering two second-half goals in a heartbreaking defeat at the StubHub Center.
Heartbreak ensued in last year’s Knockout Round match at FC Dallas, too.
Vancouver struggled to get anything going in the first half and went down a goal in the 40th minute, but it was a different story after the break. After creating several chances, Erik Hurtado brought the game level for the visiting ‘Caps in the 64th minute.
The way Vancouver was playing, a go-ahead goal seemed inevitable.
Then, disaster struck.
FC Dallas was awarded a late penalty after a controversial handball call on Whitecaps FC centre back Kendall Waston – and the rest is history.
Many players were in tears after the match. The ‘Caps felt hard done by.
They were broken.
Now, it’s time to #BringItHome.