Written by Compose.ly Staff
Now that Canada is back on the world soccer stage for the 2022 FIFA World Cup (after a long, long wait), it’s time to revisit the history of soccer in Canada. This country might be known for producing hockey stars, but there’s so much more to its rich sports history. The 150-plus years of soccer have a lot to say, from trailblazing icons to championship wins.
What better way to celebrate Canada’s men's team getting back into the World Cup action in Qatar than by revisiting some of the most unforgettable, nation-defining moments in soccer history? Here are the top history-making moments in Canadian soccer.
1. Team Canada claims first Olympic gold in women’s soccer
Following years of coming close to the top — reaching bronze in 2012 and 2016 — the Canadian women’s soccer team claimed their long-awaited gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Canada prevailed over Sweden on penalty kicks.
This first-time Olympic gold for the women’s team made Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt and Desiree Scott three-time Olympic medalists.
2. Canada takes the men's 2000 Gold Cup
It’s no secret Canada has faced a lot of disappointment in the FIFA World Cup. The years leading up to the 2000 Gold Cup were no different, with the men’s team missing out on the action three years in a row, losing out to rivals like the United States and Costa Rica.
The team went into the 2000 Gold Cup as underdogs with a less-than-stellar track record behind them. But they soon stunned the world with a series of unexpected wins. In the group phase, they came out with a draw against Costa Rica and South Korea. That luck soon turned in the quarterfinals when they beat Mexico with a stunning goal by Richard Hastings. The semifinals saw another victory against Trinidad.
They entered the finals as total underdogs — facing off against powerhouse Colombia. But they came through in the end with defining goals from Jason de Vos and Carlo Corazzin, taking them to a 2-0 win and the country’s only Gold Cup title.
3. Christine Sinclair lands the honour of international all-time leading goal scorer
Sinclair made her debut for the Canadian senior team in 2000. Since then, she’s gone on to become a soccer powerhouse, leading the Canadian team to heights the program had never seen before. She's put up incredible goal totals over the years, scoring 190 times in 315 games.
In 2020, those goals helped her shatter a world record. Her 185th goal in an Olympic qualifying match against St. Kitts and Nevis made her the all-time leading scorer on the world stage — male or female — in the history of soccer. Not only was this a personal career win for Sinclair, but it also toppled the status of U.S. players Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm, breaking over two decades of dominance from the U.S. women's team.
4. Canada storms the Women's FIFA U-19 World Championship in 2002
The 2002 U-19 Women’s World Championship proved to be a turning point for soccer in Canada. The women’s team stormed the championships, delivering impressive wins over strong teams from England, Japan and Brazil. Although the team lost to the United States in the final, this tournament proved to the world that the Canadian women’s team was a force to be reckoned with.
In front of a crowd of more than 47,000 at the final, the team’s game-changing performance made it clear there was more than enough demand for women’s international soccer in Canada. It also shaped players' careers who would take the women’s program to incredible success over the next decade, including Sinclair, Kara Lang, Candace Chapman, Brittany Timko and more.
The real significance of this game wouldn’t be fully understood until years later when its success paved the way for Canada to host the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the creation of Toronto FC.
5. Canada’s women’s team takes bronze at the 2012 Olympics
After a drought for Canadian team sports at the Summer Olympics, the women’s soccer team came through with a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The dramatic game saw Canada clinch the bronze medal in a 1-0 win against France just seconds before the game went into extra time. While they lost in the semifinal against the United States, this win proved that the Canadian women’s team wouldn’t be underdogs for much longer.
6. Canada clinches a spot at the 2022 World Cup
On March 27, 2022, Canada made history. After 36 years away from the World Cup stage, the Canadian men’s national team officially qualified for the 2022 World Cup.
On their home turf in front of a record crowd, the men’s team won a decisive 4-0 victory over Jamaica in a final round World Cup qualifier. This win, which punched their ticket to Qatar, represents what many fans call the rise of Canadian soccer. It’s only the second time the men’s team has qualified for the World Cup, but expectations are high — and spirits are even higher.
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