On January 30th, 2022, the Canadian MNT will gear up for a game against their old rival down south, The United States. This game will go a long way to determining this young talented team’s destiny, a win would put that elusive first World Cup appearance since 1986 within touching distance. While wins over the U.S in soccer have been few and far between for Canada, there is no shortage of great Canadian soccer moments against the States for the men’s national side. So as we gear up for one of the most important soccer matches in Canadian history, what better way to get in the mood by looking back at previous Canadian success against the United States?
Honourable mention – MLS Cup 2017, Toronto FC 2 – Seattle Sounders 0
I can’t put this in the official top five because club sides have international rosters, meaning this wasn’t strictly a Canadian win over the United States. However, Toronto’s win over Seattle marked the first time since 1979 that a Canadian side was the champion of soccer in North America, and this championship win has ushered in a renaissance of Canadian soccer as a credible force on the global stage.
Toronto was looking for revenge after losing to Seattle the previous year at the same stage, and goals from Jozy Altidore and Víctor Vázquez were enough for Toronto to get over the line and make Canadian soccer history. In the years since Toronto’s historic win, Canada’s men’s team has risen from 94th in the world in 2017 to 40th in 2021. The 2026 FIFA World Cup was awarded to North America, bringing the tournament to Canada for the first time.
The women’s team have continued to be an elite team in woman’s soccer, culminating with Olympic gold in 2021. A professional domestic league has been established with plans of adding a woman’s professional league in the near future and the popularity of the sport in Canada is increasing with each passing year. Whilst Toronto’s 2017 MLS Cup-winning squad only featured must one Canadian, it was a result that we may look back on in years to come as Canadian soccer’s watershed moment.
5. 1904 St. Louis Olympics, Galt FC 7 – Christian Brothers College 0
Don’t let the names fool you, this was Canada (Galt) versus the U.S.A. (Christian Brothers College) in a match that effectively decided who would win Gold in men’s soccer at the 1904 summer Olympics. Galt FC who was based out of Galt Ontario was chosen to represent Canada at the Olympics where they would face off against two teams made up entirely of American players, St. Rose Parish and Christian Brothers College.
Both American teams were based in Missouri, the state in which St.Louis is in which gave them quite the home-field advantage. Nevertheless, the Canadians proved themselves to be far superior to their American counterparts.
At Francis Olympic Field, three goals from Alexander Hall, a brace from Gordon McDonald and a goal each from Frederick Steep and Tom Taylor ensured an easy 7-0 win over Christian Brothers College. The tournament had a round-robin tournament back then, but such was the lopsidedness of the result, Galt had effectively won Gold for Canada after that first game, a fact that was confirmed when they defeated St. Rose Parish 4-0 in their second and final game.
For the first and only time to date, Canada was the Olympic Gold medal champion in men’s soccer, and there are not many places sweeter for Canada to be crowned number one, than in their southern rival’s own soil.
4. 1957 World Cup Qualification Match, United States 2 – Canada 3
The qualification campaign for the 1958 World Cup would mark the first time Canada would compete in FIFA competition and although they failed to qualify, they showed their class against the Americans who in contrast had made a World Cup semi-final in 1930, and shocked the world by beating England at the 1950 edition of the tournament.
Once again, ST. Louis was the venue for this North American showdown and once again, Canada shocked the home crowd. Canada opened the scoring early on through striker Brian Philley and just five minutes later it was 2-0 thanks to Montreal Ukrainians midfielder Ostap Steckiw. Another goal from Canada, this time from striker Gogie Stewart made it USA 0 – Canada 3 after just 25 minutes, effectively wrapping up the win for Canada.
The States however would make a go at it, Ruben Mendoza scored just before halftime to make it 1-3, and with just ten minutes left, James Murphy scored to make it 2-3 setting up a nervy finish. But Canada held on, after already beating the States in the previous fixture, this win secured a sweep over the American’s in their World Cup qualifying campaign. To this day, the 1957 3-2 win over the States remains the last time either Canada’s men or woman’s team have defeated the States on American soil in a competitive game.
3. 2019 CONCACAF Nations League, Canada 2 – United States 0
In 1985, Canada defeated the U.S. 2-0 in a friendly, fast-forward 34 years and seventeen games between the two later, and this was still the last time Canada had defeated the U.S in men’s soccer. But by 2019 Canada was starting to turn a corner, they had a roster full of talented players such as Scott Arfield, Jonathan Osorio and Jonathan David. But the key to Canada was arguably soccer’s brightest young talent, Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies.
In front of a passionate home crowd at Toronto’s BMO Field, Canada was looking dangerous all game and had the better chances to score as the game reached the hour mark. Then on 62 minutes, Scott Arfield played a low ball across the box towards Alphonso Davies, and the young star made no mistake in putting the ball into the net sending the home crowd into a frenzy! The game just didn’t seem to be going the Americans way, and with 90 minutes on the clock, Jonathan Osorio played a chipped ball over the American defence into the path of Lucas Cavallini, who made no mistake firing the ball past Zack Steffen in the American goal to make it 2-0 and sealing a famous win for Canada.
After years in the soccer wilderness, Canada had a statement win and something to build on in the future. This game proved that this current generation of Canadian talent can go toe to toe with the American’s. When they play the U.S at Tim Horton’s Field at the end of the month, they’ll only need to look as far back as October 15th, 2019 to know they have what it takes.
2. 1976 World Cup Qualification Match, Canada 3 – United States 0
In 1976, the format in place for qualifying to the 1978 World Cup involved a preliminary round-robin tournament in which two of either Canada, Mexico or the U.S. would advance to the next round. Canada failed to beat the States in the two initial qualifying games, but thanks in no small part to a historic 1-0 Canada win over Mexico, both Canada and The U.S. finished level on points and goal difference, setting up a one-off win or go home fixture between the two to be played in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
At the Stade Sylvio Cator, December 22nd, 1976, Canada handed out roses to the Haitian fans, immediately winning the favour of the neutral crowd. The field was uneven and dusty, and the near 30-degree heat didn’t help as the States got off to a much better start. But the match turned after 20 minutes when Brian Budd scored from a Bruce Wilson free-kick to make it 1-0 Canada going into halftime.
The match further swung in Canada’s favour when on the hour mark, U.S defender Steve Pecher was given a red card for a foul on Victor Kodelja, and from that point, Canada didn’t look back. Bob Lenarduzzi doubled the lead with just ten minutes left and a 30-yard strike from Bob Bolitho on the 87th minute secured a famous win for Canada, eliminating the Americans from World Cup contention in the process. The result stands today as Canada’s biggest margin of victory over the U.S in the last 65 years, perhaps they should play more games in Haiti?
1. 1957 World Cup Qualification Match, Canada 5 – United States 1
Taking the number one spot is Canada’s biggest ever win over the United States. The game also holds the honour of being Canada’s first-ever FIFA World Cup Qualifying match. In front of 7,567 fans at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium, the American’s silenced the home crowd thanks to a Harry Keough penalty on the 25th minute to take the lead. It wouldn’t last long, however, as just seven minutes later Norm McLeod scored Canada’s first-ever FIFA World Cup qualifier goal to make it 1-1, and just three minutes later it was 2-1 to Canada thanks to Brian Philley.
Canada refused to let their foot off the gas in the second half, goals from Art Hughes and Gordon Stewart on the 55th and 58th minute put the game well beyond doubt. With just ten minutes left, Hughes scored again to put the icing on the cake, as the game finished Canada 5 – The United States 1. This game was already going to be historic, being the first-ever FIFA regulated match involving Canada, but to defeat The U.S. so comprehensively means that is by far one of the most important games in Canadian soccer history.
The upcoming World Cup qualifier won’t be easy, the U.S. team was left utterly humiliated when they failed to qualify for Russia 2018, and they are desperate to put that right. Players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Brenden Aaronson are at the American’s disposal, and they pose a big threat to Canada. But this is quite possibly the best squad of players Canada has ever assembled, the ramifications of a Canadian win in this game would be massive. A rivalry that has been mostly dormant since the 1980s, is now a powder keg, the simple spark of a Canadian victory could see this rivalry explode into new heights, which would only be a good thing for Canadian soccer, and alongside positive results in games against Honduras and El Salvador could be enough to see Canada reach their first World Cup in 36 years.