Vancouver Whitecaps to start season in Sandy, Utah, due to border restrictions

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VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps will start the Major League Soccer season in Utah.

The club confirmed Wednesday that it will play out of Real Salt Lake's home, Rio Tinto Stadium, in Sandy, Utah, just outside of Salt Lake City.

The Whitecaps will have their own training pitch, gym and locker-room at the facility.

A lot of work has been done to ensure the temporary setting is as comfortable as possible, but U.S.-based teams will still have an advantage this season, said 'Caps coach Marc Dos Santos.

“It’s not home. It’s not home. It’s going to be the most home possible, but it’s not going to be home," he told reporters Wednesday. "It’s going to present its challenges, that’s for sure.”

Border restrictions forced all three Canadian MLS teams to relocate to the U.S. midway through last season and the 'Caps finished out the year in Portland, Ore., sharing a stadium with the Portland Timbers.

Vancouver finished the season with a 9-14-0 record, three points out of a playoff position.

The 'Caps will kick off the season on April 18, hosting the Timbers in Utah.

Toronto FC will play out of Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla., to start the year and CF Montreal will begin the season at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Miami, Fla.

Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said in a release that the club is working with public health officials and the league on plans to return to BC Place in Vancouver.

Dos Santos said he, too, hopes the 'Caps can return to Vancouver this season, but has prepared to spend the entire campaign in Utah.

The logistics of the move have been tricky, he added. Players have come to him with concerns about where they can leave their dog for months at a time or where they should park their car.

“All of this, when I prepared myself to be a coach, I never thought I would have to deal with," Dos Santos said.

The pandemic has forced everyone across the globe to make changes, he added.

“The same way that we have to adapt in businesses like selling cars or hotels or restaurant business, coaches have to become new again," Dos Santos said. "New tools we have to have as coaches to navigate through this different world.”


CANADIAN TEAMS IN THE U.S.

A look at where Canadian pro teams have called home during the pandemic:

Toronto Blue Jays (MLB): Buffalo, N.Y. (2020), Dunedin, Fla. (2021)

Toronto Raptors (NBA): Tampa, Fla. (2021)

Toronto FC (MLS): East Hartford, Conn. (2020), Orlando, Fla. (2021)

Toronto Arrows (Major League Rugby): Marietta, Ga. (2021)

Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS): Portland, Ore. (2020), Salt Lake City (2021)

CF Montreal (MLS): Harrison, N.J. (2020), Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (2021)

Many Canadian teams have also competed in protected "bubble" environments during the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press