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Canada's soccer success fuels youth participation

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The Canadian men’s soccer team fell 2-0 to Argentina on Tuesday night in the semi-final of the Copa America.

Despite being blanked by the defending World Cup champions, Canada’s success on the international stage is making waves in youth soccer across the country, especially in Saskatchewan.

Lee Kormish is a super fan who follows Team Canada around the world. This tournament was no exception.

“This Copa America tournament, when we go up against the World Cup Champions, we’re not expected to win that game,” said Kormish, who travelled the day of the game to New York, then returned to Saskatoon the following morning.

“But we played really good and we belonged. And we beat Venezuela, and we tied Chile, and we beat Peru. We got ahead of three South American teams, and that wouldn’t have happened in the past.”

Combined with the success of the women’s national team in recent years, soccer registration has gone up dramatically.

Saskatoon Youth Soccer says around 9,000 participants were signed up for indoor or outdoor soccer this year. That’s around 1,000 more than pre-Covid numbers.

Kormish says part of that is that kids want to replicate what they see the stars do on TV.

“When you have games like this, when you see Canadians playing against Lionel Messi, that does a lot for the kids,” said Kormish. “They want to go out in the park and kick that ball around, they want to be Lionel Messi.”

Efforts to bring a CPL team and a women’s professional team to Saskatoon have stalled, with the most recent plan shutting down in 2023. But Kormish says in order to continue developing as a soccer nation, the next step is having more elite competition on the prairies.

“The love of the game is there,” he said. “Guys, girls, they love to watch their superstars, they love to watch the World Cup. They love to watch Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But we lack infrastructure here in the Prairie Provinces.”

In the meantime, more success from the Canadian soccer teams will only help fuel the dreams of the next generation of soccer players.

“The Canadian men’s team and the women’s team. When they succeed, we feel that back home for sure,” he said.

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