The Vancouver Whitecaps will call Utah home next season, at least to start.
The Whitecaps announced today that they will play home games in Sandy, Utah, at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of MLS rival Real Salt Lake. The move is necessitated by travel restrictions between Canada and the United States due to the pandemic.
“We are very thankful to John Kimball and the entire Real Salt Lake organization for welcoming us into their family, their facilities, and providing a home away from home,” said Axel Schuster, Whitecaps FC CEO and sporting director. “We will have a first-class set-up in Utah including an exclusive training pitch, gym and locker room. Also, special credit to our operations team as this is a monumental undertaking and player care is an important focus at our club.”
Vancouver’s season-opener on April 18 will technically be a home game, in Utah, against the Portland Timbers. Portland is where the Whitecaps hosted six matches last fall, where they actually compiled a decent “home” record of 4W-2L-0D.
While the Whitecaps jet off to Utah, Canada’s other two MLS franchises will call Florida home. Toronto FC will host matches at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, while CF Montreal will play their games in Miami at Inter Miami CF Stadium.
Vancouver’s second match of the season is set for April 24 against Toronto FC, in Orlando. MLS has only announced the home openers for each of its 27 clubs, with the complete regular season schedule to be revealed in the coming weeks.
Utah will be the Whitecaps’ home to start the season, but the club is still holding out hope that they could return to Vancouver before the end of the 2021 campaign. That will depend on the success of vaccine rollout in both countries, of course, though given that the MLS season stretches into the fall, it is a realistic possibility that the Whitecaps could return to BC Place this year.
“We will absolutely miss seeing and hearing our fans at BC Place to start the season,” added Schuster. “Rest assured, our main objective is to play as many of our home games in Vancouver as possible. We’re working very closely with the league and public health officials and look forward to a time when our fans can safely attend matches at BC Place once again.”
The Whitecaps are currently conducting training camp in Vancouver, with the intention of relocating to Utah in April. The team has 29 players currently signed for the 2021 season, including 24 returning players — the most since 2017 — and five new additions. Youth will be served, as 17 Whitecaps players are 23 years old or younger.