“Matt has consistently been one of the best players at the North American second division level over the past four years – three of which I had the pleasure of coaching him,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie. “He has had several offers to join Major League Soccer teams, so I am really pleased that he has chosen to take the next step in his career with Vancouver Whitecaps FC.”
Watson, 26, joins Whitecaps FC after playing the past four seasons with North American Soccer League (NASL) club Carolina RailHawks – including the past three seasons under Rennie. Last season, the native of Redditch, England, scored three goals and added two assists in 24 appearances to help Carolina capture the NASL regular season title. During his four seasons with the RailHawks, Watson scored eight goals and registered 11 assists with Carolina at the North American second division level. He ranks second all-time in club history after starting 98 of his 107 total appearances for the RailHawks.
“I’m thrilled to be playing for Martin again, and now at the highest level of professional soccer in North America,” said Watson. “Vancouver have a great fan base and an excellent organization. I can’t wait to get the season underway.”
Prior to his time in Carolina, Watson scored 10 goals and added seven assists in 41 total appearances with Richmond Kickers in the United Soccer Leagues Second Division (USL-2) seasons of 2006 and 2007. This included four goals and four assists in leading the Kickers to the 2006 USL-2 championship title.
Before embarking on his professional career, Watson played two seasons of NCAA Division I soccer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. As a member of the Retrievers, the Englishman scored seven goals and added 16 assists, while twice being named American East Conference Midfielder of the Year. In 2005, Watson received National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-South Atlantic Region First Team honours.