John Furlong met Vancouver Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot at a private dinner six weeks ago and the two talked about what it would take to build the Caps franchise.
It must have been a compel-ling conversation because the former Vanoc chief executive now runs the club's business operations after accepting an offer to assume the title of executive chair.
"I'm a bit stunned myself," Furlong said at a news conference Thursday.
"This has all happened very quickly."
He effectively replaces former Whitecaps CEO Paul Barber, who left in late February after a two-year stint with the club.
Furlong, 61, spent nine years running the Vancouver Olympic bid committee and then Vanoc and expects a similar long-term relationship with the Whitecaps.
"For me, this is now my life," he said.
Whitecaps part-owner Jeff Mallett said Furlong will spend more time with the ownership group than Barber did but his role will be much the same - heading an executive team that includes president Bob Lenar-duzzi and chief operating officer Rachel Lewis.
Mallett said Furlong has great business connections because of his time spent planning and running the 2010 Olympics.
"Someone with those connections and ties - I don't have to explain that," he said. "That's the huge bonus that comes along. And at the heart of it, he's a soccer guy."
When Barber's departure was announced four months ago, the club said there was no plan to replace him as Lenarduzzi and Lewis would run the day-to-day operations.
But Mallett said circum-stances changed.
"This literally happened over the last few weeks, where John said: 'I think this is where I want to spend the next 10 years,'" he said. "We were not looking but he came to us and said this feels right."
Furlong is a lifelong soccer fan who still recalls Eng-land's starting lineup - Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton and company - from their 1966 World Cup win over Germany and remembers watching the game through a storefront window in Dublin.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be involved in the Olympic Games and now professional soccer," he said. "It's sort of like I feel I'm going to wake up."
Before he accepted his new job, Furlong tried to get a better sense of Major League Soccer by flying to Philadelphia to watch the Caps/Union game at PPL Park on March 31.
He was impressed with what he saw in the stadium on the banks of the Delaware River, where fervent Sons of Ben sup-porters scream their lungs out throughout every game.
"There's something special going on," he said. "The fans are so engaged and it was exciting to be there and watch and feel what it's like in the stadium and here it's the same. These fans are giving us bench strength and inspiration."
Furlong said soccer has enormous growth potential in B.C., though he acknowledged hockey is in the DNA of most Canadian sports fans.
"But I do think the White-caps can be a different kind of organization for the community, to get every child involved in sport," he said. " ... There's more to it than just showing up every Saturday and having a game and at the end of the year, doing the books. It's about trying to see how much influence you have and how much good are you doing."
Furlong has already grasped the significance Whitecaps owners place on winning the Amway Canadian Champion-ship and representing Canada in CONCACAF Champions League play, something the Caps have never done.
Toronto FC beat the White-caps in the Canadian Championship final last year and surprised many by reaching the semifinals of the CONCACAF tournament.
"We want to represent this country in this sport time and time again and become known for it," Furlong said. "To do that, you have to build a winning culture."
He said the Whitecaps want to emulate the greatest soccer organizations in the world, where winning cultures are built on and off the field.
"It's in absolutely everything they touch, from the ticket office to the parking lot to the people who make the food," he said. "Everybody is part of this idea that we're here to serve and to win and to succeed."
Wednesday, vs. Kansas City
7 p.m. at BC Place Stadium