It’s that time of year again. Where Spotify or Apple Music (or whichever streaming platform wants to sponsor us) reminds us just how trash our music taste is, we make unsustainable resolutions, and most importantly reflect back on the past 12 months.
The year in review for Canadian soccer, however, is a bit more complicated as we look back at a 2023 that will certainly go down in the history books.
In January, it seemed like we were all living in the post World Cup glow, where even if Canada got a little bit humbled in Qatar, it was still exhilarating to see them make history on the World stage. It quickly became clear, however, that just below the surface was an absolute tire fire just waiting to explode.
February brought that explosion in full as story after story surfaced about the mismanagement and governance issues that were plaguing CSA. The women’s national team tried to boycott matches at the SheBelieves Cup, then were forced to get back into action under legal threat. Later that month, Nick Bontis resigned as CSA President, but the turmoil certainly didn’t stop there.
Over the months that followed came the Heritage Committee hearings, and ugly statements issued from both sides as it seemed like Canada Soccer and the players were growing further apart by the day in a highly contentious CBA negotiation.
What could have been a massive summer for the program ended in disappointment. In June, the CanMNT got played off the park by the USMNT in the 2023 Concacaf Nations League final. Then in July, what was close to a Canada B team did themselves proud in a penalty shootout loss to the Americans in the quater-finals, but otherwise underwhelmed at the Gold Cup.
Later that month, the CanWNT took to the pitch in Australia at the 2023 Women’s World Cup and failed to get out of their group, including a humbling 4-0 loss to the Matildas in the final matchday.
The start of the fall brought a glimmer of hope, as the Women’s National Team qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympic games after a pair of decisive victories over Jamaica.
However, after failing to secure friendlies in September, the Men’s National Team couldn’t close out Jamaica in Concacaf Nations League and missed out on an opportunity to get back to the Nations League finals, and secure a spot at the 2024 Copa America (This one still hurts).
But there is still hope on the horizon. The year ended with a spectacular celebration of Christine Sinclair, the greatest to ever do it, complete with a pair of impressive results for CanWNT against Australia.
If the men can beat Trinidad and Tobago on March 23rd in a Copa America play-in they will get a group that includes Peru, Chile… oh, and World Cup Champions Argentina in the opening game of the tournament. Qualification has never been more vital.
But what happened for most of 2023 has to be a lesson that if this program cannot get its affairs in order quickly, it risks squandering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accelerate the growth of Canadian soccer with a home World Cup.
No more division. Everybody needs to start pulling in the same direction.