Soccer in Canada: A brief history and its growing prominence in Canadian culture
By: Vincent Tran
Published on: February 16 2023
No matter where you’re from in the world, you have likely seen or heard of soccer, or football as it’s known around the world. Soccer is truly a global sport, and with over four billion fans, it is undeniably one of the most recognized and popular sports.
However, North America, particularly Canada and the United States of America, are not typically known for soccer. Other sports such as basketball, baseball, and American football have largely dominated these two countries, but recently there has been an increased growth in soccer in these two nations.
For a country known for hockey, Canada has steadily improved in soccer and is starting to show that it’s becoming one of the top sports here in this nation. Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in Canada and is also the largest participatory sport in this country with over one million participants.
Without a doubt, soccer has grown exponentially in Canada and it’s only going to keep growing, so here’s everything you need to know about soccer in Canada and the rise of the sport in this country.
A brief history of professional soccer in Canada
For the most part in Canada’s professional history in soccer, it has tended to favour the Canadian women more than the men.
The Canadian women are among the top ranked teams in the world, currently ranking at seventh in the FIFA world rankings. Their status as one of the best teams in the world came to show at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when they beat Sweden in a penalty shootout to capture the Olympic gold medal, their highest finish ever.
The Canadian women had previously won the bronze medal at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and with their gold medal, a new generation of Canadian women’s soccer had begun.
The Canadian women’s team includes the likes of Christine Sinclair, who is arguably the greatest Canadian soccer player ever, for both men and women, as well as young stars like Jordyn Huitema and Jessie Fleming.
For the majority of history, the Canadian men’s team has not had much success, with their biggest achievement being when they won the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup, beating Colombia 2-0 in the final for their best ever finish in the competition.
In recent years however, the Canadian men have started to find success. After missing out on the previous eight World Cups, the Canadian men punched their ticket to Qatar at the 2022 World Cup by finishing on top of their octagonal qualifying group.
When the World Cup games start in November, it will be the Canadian men’s first appearance at the tournament in 36 years, their last appearance being in the 1986 World Cup where they finished bottom of their group with three losses to France, Hungary, and the Soviet Union.
The current Canadian men’s team is headlined by a new wave of young talent, such as star player Alphonso Davies, striker Jonathan David, and winger Tajon Buchanan. There are also seasoned veterans like captain Atiba Hutchinson, goalkeeper Milan Borjan, and the top scorer in Canadian men’s national team history, Cyle Larin.
A growing sport
The recent successes of Canada’s national teams marks a change in soccer for Canada and it’s only going to keep its upward trajectory.
Soccer is the perfect sport for many to get into because it’s very simple to follow and understand, and also very well-known across the globe.
For Canadian newcomers, soccer is a sport that most will be familiar with and it’s also a sport that can bring you together with other Canadians and be a part of Canadian culture.
It is also a sport that is easily accessible for newcomers with many organised events and groups. There are over 1200 soccer clubs across the country and many of them don’t have strict requirements to join. You could look for local clubs near you and join if you’re interested in playing soccer with others.
With the upcoming World Cup in November, it’s even better for you to feel a sense of pride for Canada by supporting our men’s national team and watching them play on the international stage.
If your country isn’t playing at the World Cup or you don’t have a country to support, get behind the Canadian national team and cheer them on as they look to improve on their last appearance at the World Cup.
With how well they played during the World Cup qualifiers, the Canadian men will feel good about making it to the knockout rounds, but it won’t be easy as they’ll be facing Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco in group F, who are ranked 2nd, 15th, and 22nd in the world, respectively.
Canada will be playing their group stage matches on Nov. 23rd, Nov. 27th, and Dec. 1st, so if you’re able to, get together with friends and family, or head to a restaurant to watch these games because you won’t want to miss them.
The growth also doesn’t end at the 2022 World Cup either, as Canada is set to co-host the 2026 World Cup, alongside the United States and Mexico, with Vancouver and Toronto being announced as one of the 16 host cities.
If you live near Vancouver or Toronto, make sure to be in the country when the World Cup kicks off four years from now because it will be an unforgettable experience and you’ll be a part of Canadian soccer history.
A bright future
With the aforementioned successes of both the men’s and women’s teams, it looks likely that Canada’s success in soccer won’t stop there.
Although the successes of both the men’s and women’s teams are exciting in their own right, what makes it even more exciting is that the core of these teams are built on young, up and coming players who look set to dominate the world stage for the foreseeable future.
For the men, Canada’s young stars Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, and Tajon Buchanan are all under the age of 23. The women’s side also have young and talented players as well, such as Jessie Fleming, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, and Jordyn Huitema, who are all under the age of 24.
These players will likely be names that Canadians will be hearing for years to come and undoubtedly, more players will be known to Canadians in the future.
It really is a great time to be a Canadian soccer fan and it’s even better for you to get behind our nation and cheer our players on. Supporting our Canadian soccer players will be a very fun and entertaining experience, but it will truly be one that will make you proud to be a Canadian.