The original Vancouver Whitecaps were formed in 1973 and entered the North American Soccer League in time for the 1974 season. After a few seasons Vancouver became one of the top teams in the league on the field and in the stands. Vancouver won the NASL championship in 1979 defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 at before 50669 fans at Giants stadium in New York. They returned home to the biggest parade in Vancouver history as well over one hundred thousand fans lined the streets.
Crowds averaged over 20000 per game from 1979 until 1983, the year they moved into brand new BC Place stadium. That year they had their largest per game average of 29166. Sadly this was not to last.
In 1984 it was obvious that the league was on it's last legs due to team owners overspending. There were only 9 teams remaining in 1984 and four of them were on shaky financial ground. Fans in Vancouver could sense the end of the league and this had a drastic effect on the attendance at Whitecaps games. Average attendance dropped to 13924 per game. The end of the 1984 season was the end of the league and the end of the Vancouver Whitecaps who had nowhere else to play.
Vancouver was soon looking for a new team and in 1986 the Vancouver 86ers were born. The "Whitecaps" name was owned by someone not willing to give it up without being paid a huge sum of money so they came up with the 86ers moniker to reflect the year the club was born and the 86 investors involved.
In 1987 Vancouver kicked off it's inaugural season in the new Canadian Soccer League. The team moved to Swangard stadium in neighbouring Burnaby to play on real grass in much smaller confines. The club was made up of old NASL Whitecaps and new players and soon was dominating the league. They won 4 consecutive CSL championships from 1988-1991 and won the North American Club Championship in 1990. Unfortunately after the 1992 season with teams averaging from 1500-6000 per game the league folded. Simply put, in a country the size of Canada, travel costs killed the league.
This time the club did not disband. They joined the American APSL which is now known as the A-League for the 1993 season. At the time the APSL was the top division in the United States. They promptly finished that season with the top record in the league. Vancouver soon was, and still is, one of the top drawing clubs in the league generally averaging over 4000 fans per game. Unfortunately this has not always made ownership happy and for a while ownership seemed to change hands regularly.
Near the end of the 2000 season an offer was made by someone who wanted to buy the club from then owner David Braley. The club was sold before the end of the season and the new owner made it known that he planned on changing the teams nickname back to Whitecaps. The off season was full of promise, the team purchased the Whitecaps name, changed back to the well known Whitecaps white with blue stripe kit and season ticket sales soared.
2001 started with plenty of excitement and was pretty decent on and off the field. Vancouver finished 3rd overall in the 21 team league, and averaged 5542 per game which was also 3rd highest in the league. Vancouver made it to the semi-finals, only to be defeated in 2 games 4-1 on aggregate. Things soon took a turn for worse.
The owner of the club lost a lot of money on the stock market and used the Whitecaps as an excuse for his financial problems to cover it up. Shockingly before the season started he fired General Manager and ex-player Bob Lenarduzzi who had been with the club since 1974. The 2002 season started off with a great opening day crowd of 5816. Then the owner started making comments in the press about huge losses incurred by his owning the team, and his negative comments caused attendance to plummet. The next home game drew the poorest crowd in club history when only 2896 showed up. Then early in the season the owner walked away from the club leaving it up to the league to run for the remainder of the season until a new owner was found. The league promptly re-hired Bob Lenarduzzi to run things and the rest of the season was played with players and fans thinking it may be the clubs last season.
After the 2002 season new ownership was found when Greg Kerfoot bought the club. More changes were in store when the new ownership group in conjunction with Bob Lenarduzzi renamed the club "Whitecaps FC" and removed any mention of Vancouver from their logo and kits. However that has not gone over too well with the supporters and everyone still refers to the club as the Vancouver Whitecaps.