With the Vancouver Whitecaps season underway and the inaugural Rugby Sevens tournament coming to a close after an extremely successful weekend, the focus of the city shifts towards one of the biggest sporting events of the year. On Friday March 25, the Canadian men’s soccer team will take on powerhouse Mexico at BC Place. The game marks the next step of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Canada currently sits second in Group A of CONCACAF qualifying with four points through two games. They captured a 1–0 win against Honduras back in November at BC Place, followed by a hard fought 0–0 draw on the road against El Salvador. Mexico sits above them in the four team group with six points. A result against Mexico would put Canada in excellent shape to advance into the fifth and final round of CONCACAF, qualifying them for the 2018 World Cup. Back in 2012 while attempting to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil Canada, the team only needed a draw on the road against Honduras to advance past the fourth round, however they were embarrassed 8–1 in the decisive game.
When the draw was made up for the qualifying tournament back in August of 2014, Canada sat at 122 in the FIFA world rankings, the lowest in the team’s history. Now just a year and a half later they have climbed to 86th and are continuing to impress. In 2015 the team finished the year with six wins, six draws, and only two losses. They only conceded three goals in their final 12 games of the year.
A result against Mexico would put Canada in excellent shape to advance into the fifth and final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Newcomers to the team, such as MLS 2015 Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin of Orlando City, are one of the main reasons for the newfound success. After scoring 17 goals in his first season of MLS play, Larin has added four more in international play for Canada as he finds his scoring touch. Other players that have made the jump from MLS to the National team include a number of Vancouver Whitecaps: Russell Teibert, Sam Adekugbe, Marco Bustos, Fraser Aird, and Kianz Froese have all see time with the senior team over the last year. Several of them could see playing time in the upcoming games against Mexico.
Last November, the men’s team returned to Vancouver for the first time in over a decade. Usually playing at BMO Field in Toronto, the game was moved to Vancouver due to renovations. With a raucous home crowd of 20,108 cheering on the boys in red (over double average crowd in Toronto over the last two years), Canada was able to claim a 1–0 victory over Honduras. The success and enthusiasm of the crowd made it an easy decision to bring the team back to Vancouver for their next game.
The current record for a National team soccer game attendance in Canada is 54,027, which was set in the semi-final match between Canada and England at the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The record for a men’s national team game is 51,936 set back in 1994. With over 50,000 tickets already sold for the game on the 25th and a large walk-up crowd expected on game day, there is a chance that a new record could be set. The sea of red will be a huge piece in helping our team to victory. With a sellout capacity of 54,500 and the entire stadium open, BC Place will be rocking when Canada takes on Mexico.