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The Evolution of Canadian Men’s Soccer

In Toronto in 1876, men’s soccer was first played following FA rules. Soccer was first popularized in southern Ontario’s universities and colleges. The 1888 Canadian men’s national soccer team that toured the United Kingdom was made up entirely of Canadian citizens, except for one man brought to Canada as a child.

Canada’s Early History Men’s soccer in Canada was first organized by the Dominion Football Association (1877) and the Western Football Association (1880), two organizations that predated the current Canadian Soccer Association. In 1885, the American Football Association (AFA) and the World Football Association (WFA) met in New Jersey for a football match. The Canadians, on the other hand, triumphed 1-0.

After WWII

When World War II ended in 1945, much of Canada’s men’s soccer infrastructure had been destroyed, and the sport’s development had to be restarted. Many ethnic conflicts erupted during this year’s games, which were dominated by teams from various countries.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Canada’s soccer scene was heavily influenced by ethnicity. Except for a few notable exceptions, most players in British Columbia are natives of Canada.

For the first time, Canada’s national team was entirely composed of players from British Columbia. Canada’s Citizenship Act exempted only a small number of newcomers from participation.

Two victories and two defeats resulted from Canada’s four World Cup qualifying matches. A 5-1 victory over the United States on June 22, 1957, was Canada’s first-ever qualifier match. However, Canada scored five goals in a row after Harry Keough’s penalty gave the United States the upper hand in the second period. Second-period goals from Norman MacLeod, Pat Philley, Art Hughes (two), and Gogie Stewart further strengthened Canada’s position.

For the first time since 1958, they made it to their first-ever World Cup semi-finals.

The Dominion Of Canada Immigration to Toronto and Montreal did not dampen enthusiasm for Canadian men’s soccer, leading to the establishment of a top-tier professional league in 1961. Montreal Cantalia, Toronto Italia, Toronto City, and Hamilton Steelers were the founding members of a new professional soccer league in 1961.

The ECPSL provided players for these teams from across Europe and South America. The Eastern Canadian league lacked players who could compete at that level. So the hunt for players and coaches began to look beyond the country’s borders.

It was Toronto City’s recruitment efforts that drew the most attention. Spurs loaned Stanley Matthews, Jackie Mudie, Danny Blanchflower and Johnny Haynes to Blackpool for the remainder of the season. Tommy Younger, a former Scotland international goalkeeper, was brought in as a player coach. Most of the rest of the team, including Roy Gratrix and others from the lower divisions of the league, was made up of British players.

They were forced to rely on lesser-known but no less talented British players because of Hamilton’s team’s smaller budget. On the other hand, Toronto Italia and Montreal Cantalia signed many Italians and a few Argentines.

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How Many Games Have Been Played?

In May 1961, Montreal hosted Hamilton in the first-ever men’s soccer ECPSL match, which drew 5,000 spectators. Italia defeated City 3-2 in the league’s inaugural game a week later at Varsity Stadium in Toronto in front of 16,509 fans. Several Toronto City players went on loan to England as the season went on. Fewer than half of the team’s 24 regular-season games saw the inclusion of Haynes, Mudie, Blanchflower, and Stanley Matthews.

Varsity Stadium hosted 145,479 fans for the 18 regular-season games and 6,061 fans for the six playoff games for both Toronto teams. The average price of a ticket was just $1.50.

On June 24, Toronto City defeated Rheims 2-1 in front of a crowd of 10,722 in an exhibition match. A few days later, in front of 24,264 fans in Vancouver, after the stars had returned home, Toronto City faced Real Madrid.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup

This year marked Canada’s first World Cup appearance. After winning CONCACAF in 1985, Canada qualified. With three wins and one draw, Canada advanced to the World Cup Qualifiers semi-finals. In the qualifiers, Canada defeated Honduras and Costa Rica with two wins and two draws. Out of the 15 CONCACAF teams, only Mexico and Canada qualified.

In the 1986 World Cup opener in Mexico, Canada was defeated 1-0 by France. The opposing coach lauded the Canadians’ fortitude. Canada’s aerial prowess and scoring chances astounded me. Canada then went on to lose 0-2 to Hungary and the USSR.

Canada finished fifth in the Olympic Men’s Football Tournament held in Los Angeles in 1980. With a 1-1 group record, Canada advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals. Canada was defeated 2-4 on penalties following a 1-1 tie with Brazil.

Men’s Soccer in Canada

Soccer is the most-watched spectator sport in Canada and is also one of the fastest-growing. By 2020, if Canada qualifies for Qatar 2022, more than a million Canadian soccer players will have contracts. Twelve provincial/territorial associations govern over 1,500 clubs in 144 districts, with nearly 850,000 soccer players.

Canada has only ever qualified for one FIFA Men’s World Cup, but that could change in 2022 when the tournament moves to Qatar. An 11-game winning streak ended with a win over Mexico in Canada’s final World Cup qualifier in 2021. It is only a matter of time before the national team makes its second appearance at the World Cup.

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