CANADA VS USA:
Find out why this is the biggest game ever!

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Canada vs USA

This soccer game could be the biggest game ever played between these two countries in any men's team sport!

By John DeBenedictis

Well, that’s a pretty big statement to make, isn’t it? An upcoming soccer game between two countries where soccer has not been considered a top three major sport, instantly becoming the biggest game ever to be played between Canada and the US?

Maybe the game itself may not get the biggest audience ever, but the ramifications of the game can be huge. Especially if there is a victor.

You may ask, bigger than the Canada USA Baseball game? Yes, that famous game in 2015 where Canada beat the USA in extra innings to win the PanAm Games Gold medal. You don’t remember that game? It was so big that I don’t remember it either. I’m pretty sure the best players in the game were not represented. The losing pitcher for the USA was a guy named David Huff who won a grand total of 25 games in 8 Major League seasons. Not exactly a superstar which is probably why that game was not “must watch TV”.

Or bigger than when Canada played the USA in American Football? Umm, did Canada ever play the USA in American Football? Who won if they did? By what rules? Hmm, nobody seems to know. Wait a minute, a couple of years ago Canada played the USA in an American football game at the AT&T stadium in Dallas for the U18 International Bowl which the USA won. Not too many people cared about that game because no one knew about it. It was definitively not a sell out nor was there much television coverage for the game.

How about that great basketball match? If we’re talking about the game where Canada lost to the USA in the 1988 Olympics in the first round, no one remembers. And besides, the USA is 5-0 against Canada in Olympic men’s basketball. At the FIBA World Cup in 2007, the last time these two teams played each other, the USA beat Canada 113 to 63. Not exactly riveting TV. I doubt that those games were sold-out.

Bigger than the gold medal hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics? That was probably the biggest game between these two countries so far, where Sidney Crosby scored in overtime to win the gold medal for Canada. The whole country of Canada was watching and went nuts when Canada won. I’m not so sure most Americans stopped everything to watch that game like Canadians did. As for the rest of the world? I’m sure there were some fans from the eight countries that actually play hockey and support it that watched it.

But this soccer game coming up on January 30th in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, is potentially on another level and here’s why, in my opinion.

Both teams have played 8 out of 14 games in the final round of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and Canada sits in first place in the group with 16 points and the USA is behind them in second at 15 points. Mexico and Panama are tied for 3rd at 14 points and the 5th place team is Costa Rica at 9 points, which indicates that they are practically out of it.

This game is potentially on another level and here's why.

The top three go straight to the World Cup and the 4th place team has to play another round, probably against New Zealand. If Canada can get 3 points by beating the USA, then they will be clear of them by 4 big points. If the USA wins, they will jump ahead of Canada by two points and have less away games to play in Central America, which could give them an easier path to the top three. Barring a total meltdown, I would say that the winner of that match would be guaranteed a top three finish because a lot of things would have to go against them for them not to make it.

So, in my books, it’s going to be the biggest international match between these two countries, especially for Canada, because they have not made it to the World Cup since 1986. That’s 36 years. 

What’s different about this game compared to any other game? Let’s start with the unbelievable interest in this game due to the fact that the game sold-out in less than 24 hours.

But the sell-out was not for a game in beautiful 30-degree weather, it’s a sellout for a game in the middle of friggin winter in Canada! Who knows, there may be a massive blizzard that day. And the game is being played in Hamilton. Not exactly a touristy destination in the best of times. Did I mention it’s being played outdoors? Not in a cozy domed stadium. Who would have ever thought that Canada would sell out a winter soccer game that quickly?

Canada’s last game against Mexico in Edmonton in November brought in incredible TV ratings, even beating out a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game. That’s unheard of in Canada. This game is probably going to set some more records for men's soccer.

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Photo by Les Jones - Covershots

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Photo by Les Jones - Covershots

It's a sellout for a game in the middle of friggin winter in Canada!

But the main reason that this is such a huge game for Canada is that if it makes it to the World Cup in Qatar, it will get $2 million dollars from FIFA to prepare for the World Cup and $10 million for making it to the group stage. Now that’s a pretty nice chunk of cash and why it’s such an important game. Sorry, match.

But on a world scale, the TV audience for their games at a World Cup will be bigger than any audience that their Olympic Gold Medal hockey game ever produced. In fact, it will dwarf that game. It’s possible that their three games in a World Cup group stage, and should they advance one more stage, may receive close to a billion viewers combined, depending on who they should play. That’s a big number. A BILLION, not few million. That’s if they make it.

Am I getting ahead of myself? It’s not out of reality when you think of it. Canada can score goals. Canada scored the most goals of any team in the world up to this point in World Cup qualifying. You read that right. Any team in the World! Maybe Canadians know something about scoring goals in soccer as well as hockey.

$10 million for making it to the group stage.

Given the enormity of the World Cup of Soccer, I’m sure you can understand why this game is instantly becoming the most important game ever played between Canada and the USA in any sport.

For Canada, if it can get them in a World Cup, the World’s largest sporting event, Canada will be on the map not just for hockey, curling, the Rocky Mountains, the CN Tower, and Niagara Falls, but it will truly join the elite in the World’s most popular sport!

For the USA, they missed the last World Cup and as the game grows in the USA, they need to get in the World Cup to turn the hundreds of thousands of new fans of the game into legitimate supporters of the game, including changing the conversation about soccer on mainstream radio and television.

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You can already see a change in the way Americans accept soccer as a major sport just by the response to the Emmy Award winning TV show, Ted Lasso. How can you not fall in love with the game after watching this TV show?

There's a lot on the line by making it to a World Cup and this game can be a turning point on the road to it. May the best team WIN!

But, although this author is cheering for both teams to make it to the World Cup, I'm going to be cheering a bit louder for Canada, the underdog for so so long!

Thanks for reading,

John DeBenedictis

Scroll down to view more about the author and CANADIAN & USA apparel 

AUTHOR 

John DeBenedictis

John DeBenedictis has been coaching for over 40 years at many levels. He currently runs his Golden Goal Scoring Course based on his book, "The Last 9 Seconds: The Secret to Scoring Goals on The Last Touch".  DeBenedictis is also the Executive Director of the National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada. (NSCAC)

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PHOTOGRAPHER

Les Jones

Les Jones is the founder of Covershots Inc and the author of "Soccer: Canada's National Sport".
He  has been the official match photographer for both the Canadian Rugby Union and the Canadian Soccer Association. He was also Chairman of The Soccer Hall of Fame & Museum, and President of the Canadian Photographic Historical Society.

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CANADIAN APPAREL