Soccer attracts a ton of local talent in the nation’s capital but the arrival of a local professional team is long overdue and necessary in growing the sport’s popularity.
The new professional squad, Fury FC, has kicked off their inaugural season and they’ll soon take to the brand new pitch at Lansdowne Park. As a result, you’re going to see an abundance of young soccer fans that finally have a team to cheer for.
- Ottawa Fury FC starts at Lansdowne Park on July 20
- Ottawa soccer clubs could unite to improve development
- New Ottawa equestrian park to feature new soccer fields
- Ottawa Fury FC schedule
Top-flight soccer is something that has eluded Ottawa for years — like light rail or a sewage-free river — while cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have teams and the infrastructure to support them.
On the infrastructure front, the announcement of more soccer fields at Ottawa's revamped equestrian park should help improve this city's outlook for youth soccer.
But what you hope to see is a number of young players and their families who see soccer as more than just an affordable option to keep children in decent physical shape.
Canadian soccer still a work in progress
Soccer is still a work in progress in Canada even though there are close to a million registered players across the country. That’s compared to about 600,000 registered hockey players in Canada.
Canadian women have done very well and compete among the world’s best, which is why this country will host the FIFA Women's World Cup next summer, with some games in Ottawa.
Canada’s men, meanwhile, rank 110th in the FIFA rankings, nestled between Latvia and New Zealand.
That’s a tad better than their lowest-ever ranking of 114 in November and 70 places lower than the highest ranking ever, which came 18 years ago.
Professional teams foster competitive young minds
When professional teams take the field in your city, the idea of playing the sport at a high level becomes more realistic and that results in a more competitive atmosphere.
The Toronto Raptors are the best example. The team’s popularity — namely Vince Carter’s popularity — sparked a factory of young basketball players coming out of the GTA.
Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas — last year’s first overall pick in the NBA draft and three projected first-round picks in this year’s draft — are four products of that era.
The Fury may not feature star players as role models for young athletes, since the team is brand new and isn’t in Major League Soccer, the highest league in North America.
But they are just one level below in the North American Soccer League. That’s where Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal all got their start before jumping to the MLS.
FC Edmonton, entering just its fourth season, is also in the NASL and it will be interesting to monitor that squad as we watch the Fury and its fan base.
This continued growth is vital to the sport’s popularity in Canada and in Ottawa, as fancy footwork is moved from the playground to the pitch.