In Canada, football has always been a very popular sport among youth, but the interest in soccer usually decreases around the age of 11/12 and they move on to other sports. This is because they are usually exposed to other popular sports such as hockey and lacrosse. Recently this has not been the case, with football being pursued as a dream by more young Canadians than ever before.
One of the major reasons for this rise is the success of Canadian teams in the MLS, and more importantly the foreign stars that they have attracted. In the Toronto area, nobody really cared for Toronto FC up until January 9th 2014, when the club announced the signing of Michael Bradley from AS Roma, and one day later Jermain Defoe from Tottenham Hotspur. This saw the interest in the time rise with the average attendance going from 18,000 to 22,000 in a single year. This number has continued to rise with the signings of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez. Same goes for Montreal Impact with their signing of Didier Drogba
This interest has helped the Canadian national team as well, with the mens team reaching the fourth round of world cup qualifying for the 2018 world cup for the first time since 2002. A new generation of players coming in are more inspired than ever to compete in a world cup, with future Canadian icons such as Cyle Larin and Raheem Edwards being poised as leaders for Canada’s push to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Another big boost came from hosting the 2015 Womens World Cup, which Canada finishing 6th out of 24 nations.
In conclusion, the passion for the beautiful game in Canada is at an all time high and is still growing. The hype is real and this is mainly due to the success of MLS teams based in Canada, and their signing of European stars. It is only a matter of time before Canada is a powerhouse among CONCACAF nations and is in the world cup for the first time since 1986. A passionate, growing fanbase is setting higher expectations on the players, and we’ll have to wait and see if they can fulfill them