Regardless of how Canada's performs at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, soccer is already both the single-most popular participatory sport in the country and Canada’s fastest-growing.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: We know where hockey stands. We've seen the booms in basketball, in tennis and golf, but the biggest change in Canada's ever evolving sports landscape is what's happening with Canada soccer. Contrary to conventional thinking or stereotype, soccer is both the single most popular participatory sport in the country, and Canada's fastest growing. There are close to one million people registered in soccer Canada compared to in the neighborhood of about a half million playing hockey.
It is a significant difference, but it does make lots of sense. One of Canada's greatest strengths as a nation is its multiculturalism, that it's a melting pot. So it only seems appropriate that a global nation like Canada is heavily involved in a sport that's globally loved and embraced.
We're seeing it reflected more and more at the youth level. In fact, while Canada has about a quarter of the total soccer playing population of the United States, Canadians, and more specifically, young Canadians, are playing soccer at twice the rate as Americans. Accessibility has been a huge part of this surge, and that's not just about cost and the sudden access to more sophisticated training and facilities.
The sport is simply more visible, with MLS and other high end leagues emerging over the last few decades with Canadians front and center. That's leading to tremendous success on the international stage. The titanic accomplishments of the Women's National Team, who hail as reigning Olympic champions, are the most profound example of that. It's one thing to see it, it's another thing to see champions from where you live.
Canadian centre-back, Kadeisha Buchanan, for example, is a star on the international stage, and currently playing for Chelsea, one of the biggest clubs in the world. She was a product of the rush of money poured into facilities and programs in her hometown of Brampton, Ontario. Canadians can see it, have access to it, and therefore, believe they can do it.
That's what's so exciting about qualification for the World Cup on the men's side, because we are just scratching the surface. As Vince Carter did for basketball in Canada and Mike Weir did for golf, the Canadian Men's National team will take the torch temporarily from the women's team, and help inspire more of the next generation of soccer stars in Canada.
If there's something missing from the Canadian Soccer landscape, it's the ability to follow, track, and watch every step that Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan, and Christine Sinclair, Jessie Fleming, and Julia Grosso, among others, take in their professional careers. It would require multiple subscriptions across several streaming services and many monthly payments to track even 1% of the Canadian talent competing globally.
But on the biggest sporting stage in the world, all eyes will be on Canada's best. Games against Belgium, Morocco, and Croatia will be among the biggest sporting moments of the year in Canada. And we know what kind of impact that can have, even on a country which already has soccer woven in its fabric.