In Europe, most if not all countries have a main stadium that the national team uses for their home games. But most European countries are relatively small, especially when compared to Canada. Canada is a big country with a small population. The small population is a big factor in national team game locations. Most games are played in Toronto, because of the sizeable population and the fact that Toronto has a purpose-built soccer stadium.
The most recent game that Canada hosted in the Nations League against Honduras. Had a pretty abysmal crowd show up to cheer on the boys in their first game back on home soil from the World Cup. A sad 13,626 people showed up to watch the game live in person. This didn’t even sell out the lower bowl of BMO Field.
Well, there are a lot of factors that make Toronto an attractive place for the game to be held, such as ease of flights from Europe, a nice stadium, the location of all the major TV networks, and historically a semi-pro Canadian crowd that would show up, and an undefeated run since 2010. It might be time to give other parts of the country a chance to see their heroes in Canadian Red.
In the last 10 years (2012-2022) the men’s team has played three world cup qualifying cycles which are guaranteed home games. In the chart below you can see that Toronto is the most popular with 16 games, followed by Vancouver with 4, Edmonton with 3 and then Hamilton and Montreal tied with 1 game each.
|Year||Cities played (number of times)|
|2015||Toronto (3), Vancouver (1)|
|2017||Toronto(1), Montreal (1)|
|2020||X (covid started no border crossing)|
|2021||Toronto (3), Edmonton (2)|
|2022||Hamilton (1), Toronto (1), Vancouver (1)|
For a country of Canada’s size, the games need to be spread out. Just look to our neighbours to the south. The USA men’s team has played in Carson, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Denver, Sandy, Nashville, Austin, Columbus, Cincinnati, St Paul, Kansas City, and Los Angeles (this excludes gold cup games because I thought that was unfair to include them as they hosted) just since 2020. That is 12 different cities spread out across the country just in the past 3 years.
S. 2 Ep. 13 – The Final Is Set – FC13 Podcast
Now if you are going to come at me and say that the reason the Canadian Men’s team plays at BMO Field is that its real grass. You are wrong. The few times that the team has ventured out of Toronto and played in Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton, and Montreal, those were all played on turf so it is possible.
Now if you are going to come at me again and say that there are no other stadiums big enough, you are again wrong. There are a number of options for places to play within the country.
Going from East to West a couple of locations the team could play in
- Halifax at either Wanderers Ground (6500) or Huskies Stadium (9,000-11,000).
- Monton Stadium (8300) but can expand to 20,000 as seen during Touchdown Atlantic
- Montreal at either Stade Saputo (20,000) with real grass, Percival Molson Memorial Stadium (20,000) or if the roof holds up the Big O (56,000)
- Ottawa at Landsdown (25,000)
- Winnipeg at IG Field (33,000)
- Regina at Mosaic Stadium (33,000)
- Calgary at Spruce Meadows (6,000) or McHahon Stadium (35,000)
Some of the stadiums are a little small, but those locations would be great for games against the minnows of CONCACAF like the BVI or AVI or St Kitts etc. The last time any of these locations other than Montreal saw a game was in 2000 when Canada played three games in Winnipeg.
The point of this article is to point out that not all games need to be played in Toronto there are other parts of Canada outside of the GTA especially when a metro area of 6 million people can only get 13,626 to a game, it looks kind of sad, and I know we as a country can at least fill a stadium to cheer on our national team.
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10 thoughts on “Canada Doesn’t Need to Always Play in Toronto”
Even though Canada played a few times on plastic turf – it is just good enough for top level international matches. If we want big games outside of Toronto other cities have to invest in the facilities. CFL astroturf doesn’t cut it. There has been talk of grass at Starlight on Van Isle in the early days, if that happens then its a good host stadium for Nations League games against smaller countries in the Winter. BC Place will get grass for the World Cup and I’d expect Canada to play its games there being the bigger of our two host stadia and Victor Montagliani’ss home town. But to be a serious international stadium – it needs have a heated grass pitch and Minimum or 30k preferably 40+.
Did you see how much tickets were for the game? They were ridiculously priced. That’s the real reason for the low attendance. 2-3x more than the prices for the last qualifying game vs Jamaica.
Having games in Toronto is fine. Canada Soccer needs to rethink the way they price tickets.
Fact is Canada hasn’t lost at BMO since 2009 I think it was against Peru that is more important than any hurt feelings around the country.
Some of the stadiums don”t work in the spring/winter. Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary would all love ro hold games but look at the temps on the weekend. Spread the games out, give other fans the oppotunity to see these games. Don’t be naive about the challenges Canada’s environment brings.
The reason for low attendance is the price gouging for tickets. 150 a ticket are you fuckin serious? Try getting a stadium filled in Vancouver for that price. This is not the way to promote the game.
The attendance wasn’t that low considering seating in the upper deck was closed off, it was pretty close to sold out. I don’t really have issue with the ticket prices, cost of everything is going up including tickets to all sporting events. The main problem is that the CSA aren’t promoting the team or the competition. People on the street didn’t know Canada were playing, and nobody really knows what this Concacaf Nation League is all about. CSA needs to develop a marketing budget and start promoting the team better.
Totally agree with this article.
You listed the reasons why the games are in Toronto and that’s exactly it. Ease of flights is the biggest reason. There were three days in between the game in Curacao (25th) and the game in Toronto (28th). Flights from Curacao go to Toronto. That means if they wanted to play anywhere else in Canada, that requires a second flight – which eliminates their practice time and increases jetlag. (Honduras played a friendly on the 22nd, so they would’ve had time to travel there early and not face the jetlag/practice issue). The same was the case in WC qualifying with the 3 in 7 windows.
The “they’ve played on turf” argument also isn’t really true. Can they play on turf – yes, but do the players want to play on turf – no. Real grass is just plain better than Turf. The players don’t want to play on turf if they can avoid it, so they end up defaulting to Toronto. The recent times they’ve played on turf have mainly due to no alternative – ie. the Edmonton and Hamilton games were because it was winter and BMO didn’t have grass grown.
I’d love to see them spread out, but those two reasons explain why. And as others mentioned, they tripled the prices which is why attendance plummeted.