Canada to face U.S. in World Cup qualifier tuneup | Soccer | CBC Sports

Canada to face U.S. in World Cup qualifier tuneup

Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 | 01:36 PM

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Canadian soccer fans will get a chance to see their cross-border rivals like American star Landon Donovan, left, and Edson Buddle, when the two sides meet in a friendly later this year. (Timothy A. ClaryAFP/Getty Images) Canadian soccer fans will get a chance to see their cross-border rivals like American star Landon Donovan, left, and Edson Buddle, when the two sides meet in a friendly later this year. (Timothy A. ClaryAFP/Getty Images)

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It's not quite the War of 1812, but two hundred years after Canadians defended their lines against American soldiers, they'll get a chance to do it once again - this time on the soccer pitch.

CBCSports.ca has learned from CONCACAF and U.S. soccer sources that the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), as a part of their centenary celebrations, has arranged to play the U.S. men's national team on Canadian soil ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in June.

It's not quite the War of 1812, but two hundred years after Canadians defended their lines against American soldiers, they'll get a chance to do it once again - this time on the soccer pitch.

CBCSports.ca has learned from CONCACAF and U.S. soccer sources that the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), as a part of their centenary celebrations, has arranged for the men's national team to play the United States on Canadian soil ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in June.

The official date and location will be announced Thursday in Toronto when the CSA launches a new jersey to mark the centennial occasion and confirms the host cities for men's and women's games this year.

For a soccer federation that would struggle to find much to hang its hat on from the last 100 years, this is a refreshingly well thought out decision.

Less than a year ago, Umbro Canada, an official sponsor of Canadian soccer, let it slip that the CSA was seeking out a pair of big-name friendlies to play in Canada as part of the centennial celebrations. England and France were the targets.

You can understand their thinking. Bring in the two founding nations - both guaranteed draws at the gate and hype in the media - to play high profile games that would be as rich on symbolism as they are on profit.

Problem is both England and France command hefty appearance fees, so to ensure a profit you would end up playing the games at Rogers Centre and Olympic Stadium and marketing them to the ex-patriots to ensure a sellout.

Home crowd for the home team 

Nothing says celebrating Canadian soccer like the roar of 40,000 English soccer fans dwarfing that of the 10,000 Canadian fans in attendance, eh?  It was a nice idea, but not one that would fit the goals of the modern game here.

Canadian soccer still struggles to ensure home crowds for its home teams - something that is considered crucial for countries trying to qualify for a World Cup. It's a testament to, and a detriment of, living in a multicultural community.  Even the smallest of nations will draw hordes of fans to come cheer on their homeland, even against their current home.

Most Canadian soccer fans still remember a fateful September night in 2008, when 5,000 Honduran fans took over Saputo Stadium in Montreal during the 2010 World Cup qualification and lifted their team to a 2-1 defeat of the Canadians. Amid stories of bags of piss thrown, security abuses and corporate sponsors handing out Honduran-coloured thundersticks, it was widely declared a low point for the Canadian program.

Out of that though has grown awareness about the need to ensure home support for the Canadian team. It's what led to the decision to play all of opening round World Cup qualifiers in Toronto. And it's, ultimately, why the U.S. - who traditionally doesn't have a large contingent of travelling support - is the perfect choice as a send off to the next round of World Cup qualifying, which begins in June.

Canada's first, albeit unofficial, international game was against the U.S. in 1885. Canada won 1-0 over the Yanks in Newark, N.J., but the Americans of 1885 are far from the Americans of today. In fact, where the Canadian program has stagnated in the last 20 years, the American program has thrived, qualifying for successive World Cups, creating several international-calibre players and reaching as high as No. 4 in the FIFA World rankings. Canada is currently ranked 74.

It's a big gap and not likely one that will be closed any time soon. But for the CSA, and Canadian soccer, the U.S. team they face in June should be the benchmark from which they measure themselves over the next 100 years. 

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