Vikes to host Whitecaps FC Feb. 19 at Centennial Stadium, first-ever CIS vs MLS meeting

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Andy Watson

VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team will have an opportunity to see how they stack up against the elite when they play host to Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Major League Soccer (MLS) on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 1 p.m. at Centennial Stadium.

This is the first time a CIS and MLS team have faced one another, a testament to the improving quality of university soccer in Canada, says Vikes men’s soccer head coach and former national team and former Vancouver Whitecaps player Bruce Wilson.

“The goal is to be competitive and to provide a special atmosphere for people,” Wilson said. “Fans will be coming out not only to see us but to see the Whitecaps and get a look at their squad before the season. I think we’ll have a very good turnout.”

Following the tilt on Feb. 19, head coach Martin Rennie’s Whitecaps FC squad will travel to Orlando, Florida, to continue their 2012 preseason training camp. Vancouver hosts First Kick versus Canadian rivals and MLS expansion club Montreal Impact at BC Place on Saturday, March 10.

“Victoria has a great soccer community and the Vikes provide a fantastic experience on and off the pitch,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “Throughout the years, we have played a number of matches on Vancouver Island, but this will be the first time as a Major League Soccer side. We are looking forward to an exciting match.”

Tickets for the Victoria match on Feb. 19 can be purchased by phone at 250 721-8480 or online at http://tickets.uvic.ca, and they are priced as follows:

Adults: $15

Seniors/Students/Alumni: $10

Youth (12 and under): $7

Advance tickets are also available at a discounted price until Monday, Feb. 9 at Soccer World (http://worldofsoccer.ca/) and Spank-It Sports (http://www.spankitsports.ca/) in Victoria.

At least five Vikes have previously played professional soccer with Whitecaps FC. They include Jamie Lowery, Chris and Nico Craveiro, Geordie Lyall and Wilson. In fact, the Vikes head coach was an original member of the North American Soccer League Whitecaps, having played four seasons in Vancouver from 1974 to 1977.

Another tie to Whitecaps FC is the development of CIS tournament Most Valuable Player Cam Hundal of Surrey, B.C., who helped guide the Vikes to a national title on home soil this past November at Centennial Stadium. Hundal was part of the Whitecaps FC Prospects program in 2009 and 2010. This is a testament to the player development model Whitecaps FC prides itself on.

This is not the first time UVic has played Whitecaps FC, as the Vikes hosted Vancouver when the Whitecaps were a North American second division club in front of over 1,650 fans in 2010. The Feb. 19 friendly will be the first time an MLS club has faced a CIS team.

The Vikes practice tonight at 6:30 p.m. on campus. They are preparing for a tour in Florida, leaving Feb. 7 and arriving back in Victoria late in the day on Saturday, Feb. 18.

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