Our neighbors to the north continue to struggle to become a soccer nation
Dan Gaichas, October 21, 2004
CHICAGO (MNN) - Here's a question: What the sport that most Canadians play?
If you guessed hockey, then you would be wrong. Believe it or not, more Canadians play soccer than any other sport. And according to a 2003 Soccer Demographics report by the Canadian Soccer Association, the number of registered soccer players has grown every year since 1980.
There is a bit of a soccer history in the Great White North. Both the Toronto Metros (1976) and the Vancouver Whitecaps (1979) won NASL Soccer Bowls. A Canadian side that comprised of mostly NASL alums went to the quarterfinals of the 1984 Olympic Tournament and later the 1986 World Cup. After years in the wilderness, they came from nowhere (and with the help of a coin toss) to win the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup. However, it has been tough going to say the very least in the years since that triumph.
Their aspirations for Korea-Japan 2002 ended before they began starting with a home loss to Trinidad and Tobago. They would only win one of their six qualifiers that year in the semifinal round and had to wait a long time before their chance at Germany.
Sadly, the campaign has already ended again with losses to Costa Rica and Guatemala and losing late leads against Honduras. Of course, the officiating in those matches against Honduras (where Canada had a goal disallowed in both, and Armando Guevara was awarded a dubious penalty in the first) was described as "crap" by CSA president Andy Sharpe. But the reality was that there more passengers than drivers in Frank Yallop's squad that cancelled out what were workmanlike performances in the last two qualifiers.
The bigger picture is that Canada lags way behind the US and Mexico in soccer. They are ranked 96th in the FIFA rankings, and will now have to struggle to stage friendlies to fill the void of not being in the hexagonal next year. What to do?
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