Has Canada Found the Beautiful Game?

Editor’s note: Michael Coroneos, a Toronto FC supporter, will be writing periodically on Canadian soccer for pitchinvasion.net. As your editor discovered himself in May on a trip to Toronto, soccer has taken off this season in Canada. And as Michael explains, the ball is now really rolling.

I woke up this morning in Toronto and on every TV newscast and radio station the talk was soccer. For a second, I had to check if I was dreaming or had been transported to Argentina: nope, this is actually happening, and it’s not just Toronto but across Canada.

It started with Toronto FC, who have surprised everyone by selling out their entire season. Yesterday, it was announced TFC have a waiting list of 3000 people for season tickets. Then it was the unexpected run of Canada to the semi-finals of the Gold Cup last week. Now it’s the biggest single sporting event ever held in Canada: the under-20 FIFA World Cup.

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It seems as if the whole city and country is finally paying attention to soccer. The entire tournament is almost sold out and Montreal has sold close to 60,000 tickets for today’s Brazil/Poland match. I almost want to say we’ve seen this before, as the naysayers would point out when it comes to Toronto FC. They bring up the Toronto Blizzard and the old NASL.

However, we haven’t seen this scale of interest in soccer before. It’s tough to figure out: Why now? Why here? Part of the reason is the huge mainstream media coverage that soccer is now getting in Canada. Toronto FC have every game televised and the majority of them on the public broadcaster, the CBC. The CBC also has the rights for the 2010 world cup and this U-20 Wold Cup. This is one of the few times that not just soccer but soccer involving Canadian teams is accessible to all on a national level.

I’m optimistic that this isn’t just another one shot football-frenzy for Toronto and Canada. In the past, ethnic communities celebrated the World Cup but then went back to watching their domestic leagues from the old country. Now everyone will go back to watching their own club, Toronto FC. And it’s not just Toronto FC: the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact are two of the most successful clubs in the USL. Has Canada finally found the beautiful game?

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