After spending the weekend overseeing an event that saw more than 2,000 young soccer players putting their skills on display, Ryan Clark laughed at the question put to him Monday morning.
“Why do we do it?” he said, both repeating the question and perhaps wondering why himself. As the manager of collegiate transition with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Clark oversaw the annual Whitecaps FC Showcase last weekend at Newton Athletic Park.
The event featured 110 teams, both male and female, in the U15, U16 and U18 age groups playing before roughly 140 college scouts from NCAA, U Sports and PACWEST universities from across North America. Teams came from across Canada and several U.S. states. There was even one team from Brazil in attendance at the event.
And the Whitecaps have several reasons why they spent three days in Surrey, showcasing youth talent from across North America to university programs.
“It’s a huge community giveback,” said Clark, offering up one reason. “We have a massive network, we get calls from as many as 10 to 15 universities a day. So why not share that network with the community?”
Numerous university programs consider the Whitecaps FC Showcase a must-see event. Local schools such as the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Trinity Western University were present, as were several big-name colleges from south of the border such as Stanford, Duke, Arizona State and Oregon.
Another reason for the Showcase is to give players from one of the Whitecaps’ residency programs a chance to continue playing at a high level.
“If they don’t get signed with a pro team coming out of residency, we want to get into a high-performance program as soon as possible because we might want them back at some point,” Clark said.
It’s difficult to determine how many scholarships are offered during the weekend, and Clark notes some will be offered in the future as a result of the Showcase.
“For the boys, the older kids (U18) get the scholarship offers, the younger ones in the U15 and U16 age group are here to get on the radar,” he said. “The girls get offered scholarships at a younger age.”
The weekend also presented players and parents a chance to question university scouts and coaches at a ‘college round table’ at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, something Clark said is “an opportunity they won’t have elsewhere.”
With the thousands of players and hundreds of college representatives in one location, Clark noted there is also a huge financial gain for the host community.
The City of Surrey estimated the economic impact of the Whitecaps FC Showcase at $2.99 million in 2015, he noted.
“That was when we had 85 or 90 teams,” he said. “We were at 110 this year, so we’re well over $3 million. it’s neat to see something we created have that kind of impact.”