NASL & MLS Soccer: Robert Italo Lenarduzzi
Date of birth: May 1, 1955
Place of birth: Vancouver, Canada
Playing position: Defender (retired)
Robert Italo (“Bob”) Lenarduzzi is arguably the most iconic Canadian soccer figure in Canada – particularly on the West Coast.
He was born on May 1, 1955 in Vancouver British Columbia and went on to play in the North American Soccer League, for Canada in numerous International competitions and to this day is employed as President of the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS.
His dedication to his sport in Canada has led to his induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Lenarduzzi was a soccer Stud at an early age who honed his craft as one of the best young midfielder/defenders coming out of Canada. At age 15 he was signed to play for Reading of the English Football League. He would go on to play 67 games with that club before the North American Soccer League came calling.
In 1974 Lenarduzzi joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and he would play with the club until 1984 (11 seasons) until financial difficulties forced the league out of operation.
At the time Lenarduzzi held the record for the most games played in League history with 312 and he had the unique distinction of playing every position during his 11 year career.
He won the NASL North American Player of the Year in 1978 and guided his Whitecaps to their only league championship in 1979.
In 1984, Lenarduzzi joined the Tacoma Stars of Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). He spent two seasons with them before moving to the Vancouver 86ers of the Canadian Soccer League in 1986 to become the team’s Executive Director.
In 1987, he returned to the field as a player and a coach with the 86ers.
Lenarduzzi became one of the most decorated Canadians when it came to representing his country as well – he earned 47 caps playing for Canada.
He played all the country’s matches both as the squad progressed to the quarterfinals of the 1984 Summer Olympics and as it participated in the first round of the 1986 World Cup finals.
In the twilight of his playing career, Lenarduzzi switched focus to a coaching role, starting as player/coach for the Vancouver 86ers in 1987 and moving to full time coach after retiring from his playing career.
Lenarduzzi would coach Vancouver for five years leading the franchise to four consecutive CSL titles from 1988 to 1991. His record as coach of the 86ers was an astounding 96wins-24 losses-28 ties.
Lenarduzzi’s impressive coaching credentials led to him being named Canadian National team coach in 1993.
He failed to get Canada to the World Cup stage during his tenure although the Canadians came close on a couple of occasions.
Lenarduzzi resigned his post after just four years in 1997.
Bob Lenarduzzi’s soccer career didn’t end with his failed attempts that the National level – he became manager of the Vancouver 86ers again in 1998 and in 1991 he became Head of Soccer Operations for the Vancouver Whitecaps (formerly the 86ers).
During that time Lenarduzzi was named the A-League’s executive of the year for 2000 to add to his impressive resume.
In 2001, Lenarduzzi was inducted as a player into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2005, he was awarded the Order of British Columbia. In 2003, he was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Lenarduzzi was voted one of the Top 30 Players of the Century in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) region.