Fresh off their second consecutive Canadian Premier League title (the league has only existed for two seasons), Hamilton’s Forge FC is riding what’s been a wave of national optimism surrounding the pitch.
Forge will now move on to face El Salvador soccer club, CD Municipal Limeno in a two-leg preliminary round match in the CONCACAF League.
But even more intriguing is the upcoming match between Forge FC and MLS side, Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship Final. The winner-take-all Battle of the North will be the first under Canada Soccer’s new format to determine which Canadian club earns a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. TFC earned their spot in the final by finishing ahead of both the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps FC in group play.
It’s easy to get lost in all the different tournaments and acronyms (CONCACAF is shortish for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), but all that really matters is that soccer is on the rise in Canada and the world is noticing.
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The Canadian women’s national team has been a contender for decades, ranking as high as 4th in the world and boasting one of the sports’ most accomplished players in Christine Sinclair. Canada’s women’s team has nearly a dozen players suiting up professionally for club teams in Europe, including 19-year-old Jordyn Huitema, who has 13 goals in 33 games for Paris Saint-Germain.
Meanwhile, the men’s side has lagged significantly — ranking anywhere from 40 to 122 in the FIFA rankings.
That’s likely about to change, though.
Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker says the 2019 inception of the Canadian Premier League came at the perfect time.
“I think this is the perfect storm of things that are going on,” said the 30-year-old midfielder and Oakville native who has 22 matches under his belt for the Canadian national team.
“Obviously we have a talent in Alphonso Davies that we just haven’t seen before but you even look at a guy like Atiba Hutchinson, who is an unbelievable player. For whatever reason, as a team and as a collective we’ve never come together and be able to do it.”
Still just 19 years of age, Davies has taken the soccer world by storm. The African-born Canadian has gone from a refugee camp in Ghana to the world’s most exciting fullback. Davies and his Bayern Munich teammates raised the UEFA Champions League trophy this summer as the top club team in the world.
And Davies isn’t just a one-off.
Brooklyn-born and Ottawa-raised forward Jonathan David made a huge jump in 2018 when he moved from his youth team in Ottawa to KAA Gent, a club in Belgium’s top league. David was just 18 at the time. Two years later on Aug. 11, 2020, French side, Lille OSC purchased David from Gent for nearly $50-million USD — making David the most expensive Canadian transfer to date.
“As a Canadian soccer fan, you should be excited,” added Bekker. “All of this is moving towards 2026, which is really going to put Canada on the map.”
The 2026 men’s World Cup will be jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, which means Canada should get an automatic spot in the tournament. And you better believe the Canadian soccer program wants to prove it belongs.
“I think our fans should be really fired up for what lies ahead for this national team”, concluded Bekker.
What lies ahead for the Canadian men’s national team is 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying. They’ll have to make it through three rounds of CONCACAF qualifying to earn a spot in Qatar, beginning with a match Oct. 8 against Bermuda.
The road is long and the deck is stacked, but what better way to show the soccer world that Canada’s men can play.