Soccer in Canada

Soccer in Canada

Sport overview
country = Canada
sport = soccer

imagesize = 260px
caption =
union = Canadian Soccer Association
nickname = The Canucks, Les Rouges (The Reds)
first = Toronto, 1876
registered = 2,695,712 (total)
841,466 (adult)
clubs =
match = 71,619 (1976) East Germany vs Poland (Olympic Stadium, Montreal)
league =
national1 = Canadian Soccer League
club1 =
club2 =
club3 =
club4 =

Soccer is one of the many popular recreational sports played in Canada, and for the past two decades it has overtaken ice hockey as the sport with the most registered players in the country. According to FIFA's Big Count, 2,695,712 people play soccer. [cite web|url=|title=FIFA Big Cout 2006|publisher=FIFA|accessdate=2008-07-10] Despite this Professional soccer is considerably less visible than contemporary sports when it comes to media coverage. However, the Canadian women's national team is one of the best in the world, and has benefited from a surge in youth participation.


In a trend mirrored in other English-speaking nations of the British Empire the Dominion of Canada was where Association Football, overwhelmingly the most popular national sport of Great Britain, was overshadowed by a rival code of the game with explicitly local roots. [Goldblatt, David - The Ball is Round. (2006) P.88-89] In Australia it was Australian Rules Football, in Ireland it was Gaelic Football while New Zealand and South Africa preferred Rugby.

In Canada this was a process that began in 1869 with the founding of Hamilton Football Club who would play what became Canadian Football which by the dawn of the twentieth century would become the dominant football code within Canada. Along with Ice Hockey it would dominate the Canadian sporting scene throughout much of the twentieth century, both in terms of participation and spectating. [Goldblatt p.89]

This has changed over the past two decades, and soccer has overtaken ice hockey as the sport with the most registered players in the country. In 2005, there were 841,466 soccer players compared to 543,390 registered hockey players in Canada. Despite this it still lags behind the other two sports in terms of spectating and media coverage, though there appears to have been a recent shift towards soccer in this regard as well.

Canada was the host of the inaugural FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in 2002, and finished a surprising second to the USA. Canada's men have only made it once to the FIFA World Cup. They qualified for the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, but in the tournament the Canadian side failed to score a single goal, were eliminated in the first round, and finished last in the overall standings. In 2000, Canada stunned the continent by taking home the CONCACAF Gold Cup, giving their backers cause to hope for better times to come.

The high point of Canadian soccer history was on September 14, 1985, at King George V Park in St. John's, Newfoundland when over 13,000 people witnessed Canada's 2-1 victory over Honduras, which qualified the Canadians for their first and only World Cup (in Football World Cup 1986, Mexico).


Roots of the Game (1875-1968)

There is a long history of soccer in Canada. The first game played under modern rules took place in Toronto in 1876. [ NUTELLA® Soccer Club- Canadian Soccer History ] ] [ [ Soccer in Canada ] ] The first league the Dominion Football Association was formed a year later. Canada was an early soccer power, winning the gold medal at the 1904 Olympics [ [ History-1904 ] ] and competing with the best teams in the United States. The Canadian team declined as the sport was out competed by Canadian football and ice hockey in terms of popularity and players. A steady stream of immigrants from soccer countries kept the game at a limited popularity, but it has never again entered the mainstream until the end of the 20th century when the number of registered players exceeded hockey.

In 1910 the first ever professional game was played in Vancouver between the Callies and Rovers. Two years later in 1912 the first meeting of the Dominion of Canada Football Association was formed, laying the foundations for what would become the Canadian Soccer Association. In 1914 the Canadians became full members of FIFA, though they did not attempt to qualify for the World Cup until 1958 - twenty eight years after the inaugural competition was held and after a number of years of not fielding a national team at all.

For much of the first hundred years of its history, the sport in the country remained patchy. New leagues were commonly formed and dissolved, while the most talented of players went to play in Europe, such as Joe Kennaway who joined Glasgow's Celtic F.C in 1931 and played for them for the next eight years. The Great Depression hit the sport badly, and for a number of years the national association was unable to afford to host their annual meeting.

NASL era (1968-1985)

Following a rise in the popularity of the game, after the broadcasting of the 1966 World Cup, the North American Soccer League was created in 1968. The league covered the United States and Canada, with many European professionals imported to make up the teams. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Canada was well represented in the NASL, with professional teams playing in five different cities, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The league folded in 1985.

The collapse of the NASL was a major blow to Canadian soccer, yet despite this in 1985 the Canadian national football team qualified for World Cup 1986 by beating Honduras 2-1 the only time they have managed to reach the sport's premier international tournament. Their performance in Mexico was disappointing; despite initial optimism they lost all three group matches and were knocked out [ Sports] . At one point, the Canadians had bid to host the tournament, hoping to capatalise on the growing strength of the Canadian game, but their application was rejected in favour of Mexico [Goldblatt p.636] .

Decline and Rebirth (1985-2007)

The NASL was replaced by the Canadian Soccer League [ [ The Year in American Soccer - 1987 ] ] that began with teams in eight Canadian cities. This league existed from 1987 to 1992. There were a number of attempts to create a viable professional league in the country, but none were significantly promising and it became clear that the future of Canadian professional club soccer was in affiliation with Major League Soccer, the heir to the NASL, which had started in 1996.

Once again the national team managed to achieve one of their greatest successes at a low point for the club game. In 2000 they defied the odds, by winning the Gold Cup 2-0 against Colombia. [ [ BBC News | FOOTBALL | Canada win Gold Cup ] ] This sparked hopes of a new era of success in Canadian soccer, but these hopes were thwarted as Canada failed to qualify for either of the next two World Cups. [ [ | Official Site of the Canadian Soccer Association ] ] The national team has never achieved a higher position than 40th in the FIFA Rankings.

MLS era (2007-)

Toronto F.C. were awarded an expansion franchise to Major League Soccer in 2007, becoming the first Canadian member of the league. [ [ Major League Soccer: News: Article ] ] Vancouver is in the running to host the eighteenth team when MLS expands in 2012 [ [ MLS eyes Vancouver for possible expansion ] ] and other Canadian cities have been reported as being interested in future expansion, most notably Montreal. [ [ Soccer By Ives: Montreal stepping up MLS expansion efforts ] ] The MLS is committed to a slow, measured increase in the number of teams to avoid a similar collapse to the one that engulfed the NASL.

The Canadian Champions League was started in 2008 and competed for between the three top professional clubs - to determine a qualifier for the Continental competition, and to effectively establish a champion of Canada. [ [ CBC to broadcast Nutrilite Canadian Champions League ] ] In the first Canadian Championship, Montreal Impact claimed the title, finishing above the MLS team, Toronto FC, and fellow USL club Vancouver Whitecaps.

Present situation

Soccer is much on the rise in Canada. Since 2000, CBC has held an annual "Soccer Day in Canada", an all-day version of "Hockey Night in Canada". Due to the popularity jolt in the recent years, CBC also held the first "Soccer Day in Canada" on May 31, 2008. This featured live airing of minor soccer games all across the county in cities such as Halifax, Winnipeg, and Red Deer. Stories were featured in such places as Harbour Grace and Yellowknife. The day ended with a game between Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy.

Starting in 2007, Major League Soccer with one club, Toronto FC, is the top level in Canada. The second tier is the USL First Division, which has two Canadian clubs: Montreal Impact, and Vancouver Whitecaps, in the next tier follows the Division II Canadian Soccer League, which includes the academy club for Toronto FC and the reserve side of the Montreal Impact, and is Canada's National Soccer League. The governing body of soccer in Canada is the Canadian Soccer Association.

The league in Europe with the largest content of Canadian soccer players is the 2. Bundesliga, in Germany. A new competition the Canadian Championship is being created, for the leading teams from Canada to qualify for intercontinental competition.

Canada was host to the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup Finals, from June 30 to July 22.The final was held in front of 20,000 people at the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto, with Argentina winning the game by a score of 2-1 over the Czech Republic.Organizers say a total of nearly 1.2-million tickets -- a tournament record -- were sold at the three-week-long event with games at Montreal's Olympic Stadium registering between 40,000 and 50,000 spectators. This has led to great optimism regarding both a future increase in the number of professional teams in the country, and any future bid to host the World Cup.

There are only a handful of soccer-specific stadiums in the country, though there are a number of Canadian Football stadiums suitable to host soccer matches.

Leading clubs

* Toronto F.C. (2006-)
* Montreal Impact (1993-)
* Vancouver Whitecaps (1986-)

Former major clubs

* Calgary Boomers
* Edmonton Drillers
* Montreal Manic
* Montreal Olympique
* Toronto Blizzard
* Toronto Falcons
* Vancouver Royals

Notable players


*Charmaine Hooper
*Kara Lang
*Christine Latham
*Christine Sinclair
*Brittany Timko


*Jim Brennan
*Brian Budd
*Alex Bunbury
*Errol Crossan
*Julian de Guzman
*Jonathan de Guzman (plays internationally for Holland)
*Dwayne De Rosario
*David Edgar
*Craig Forrest
*Owen Hargreaves (plays internationally for England)
*Iain Hume
*Joe Kennaway
*Bob Lenarduzzi
*Whitey McDonald
*Colin Miller
*Jimmy Nicholl (played internationally for Northern Ireland)
*Paul Peschisolido
*Tomasz Radzinski
*Paul Stalteri
*Dave Turner
*Carl Valentine
*John van 't Schip (played internationally for Holland)
*Bruce Wilson
*Frank Yallop

ee also

*Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum
*List of soccer clubs in Canada


External links

* [ "" Official Site of the Canadian Soccer Association]
* [ CSA with a list of its Hall of Fame inductees]
* [ "Regional Canadian Soccer Leagues": An overview of the history of professional soccer leagues and clubs in Canada]
* [ "" profile of soccer in Canada]
* [ "Canadian Soccer Forum": List of Canadian Players Abroad]



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