VANCOUVER, BC – Over the next two weekends, over 100,000 spectators are expected to walk through the doors at BC Place. All to watch the beautiful game.
Let that sink in for a second.
On Friday night, the Canadian men’s soccer team drew 54,798 fans in a FIFA World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico at BC Place, the largest crowd at a Canadian national team event (of any sport) on home soil in the history of our country.
The previous record was set during last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. Also at BC Place.
As TSN soccer analyst Kristian Jack wrote, “These are extraordinary times for Canadian soccer.”
And Vancouver is right in the middle of it.
“I don’t think any of it is isolated,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “I think what’s happened now – with the fantastic atmosphere our supporters have established at BC Place, the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and men’s national team getting a result against Honduras – it’s a perfect storm. When you combine all that, we’re trending in the right direction. We don’t want to get too carried away – we just need to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do on the pitch at the club and international level – but the sky is the limit.”
Certainly, it seems like soccer is on the rise in Vancouver.
But let’s not forget that there’s a long and storied history here, too.
In fact, the first-ever professional soccer game in Canada was played at Recreation Park in Vancouver back in 1910. It was between the “Rovers” and “Callies.”
The Callies won 3-0, in case you were wondering.
There have been many more momentous occasions since then.
The Whitecaps’ 1979 Soccer Bowl title, and ensuing parade that saw approximately 100,000 people line the streets of downtown Vancouver, certainly comes to mind. As does the Vancouver 86ers unprecedented four straight Canadian Soccer League championships.
More recently, Vancouver was one of the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which – as mentioned – was a record-breaker from an attendance perspective. It’s also no coincidence that Vancouver was chosen as the host city for the tournament final.
The Canadian men’s national team has a history here too, but they went over a decade without playing a competitive game in Vancouver until last year’s World Cup qualifier vs. Honduras.
Fittingly, Canada won 1-0.
After the match, players raved about the atmosphere. Midfielder Will Johnson said it was the best Canada crowd he’s ever played in front of, describing the atmosphere as “fantastic” and “unbelievable.”
It was a “no-brainer” to come back for the Mexico match, Canada Soccer said at the time.
And the city has responded. In a big way.
“I think it speaks to the people here in British Columbia, and specifically in Vancouver, about how much they have an appetite now for world-calibre sport and, in particular, soccer,” Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli told Metro this week.
So is Vancouver the soccer capital of Canada?
You be the judge.
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