Ahead of this year’s Virtual Toronto Sports Summit, we’ve taken a look at how football, or soccer, is shaking up the sports landscape in Canada following similar trends to the United States.

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While the country’s most popular sports are still ice hockey and lacrosse, the all-time Canadian classics, soccer has catapulted itself onto the scene with its rapid growth since the 1990s.

Now the most common sport in terms of participation in the country, soccer is particularly popular with younger generations and so its influence on the sporting landscape is likely to continue growing over the coming years. According to the Canadian Youth Report, the game has officially overtaken ice hockey as young people’s favourite sport in Canada – while 767,000 children from ages 3-17 play organised soccer, only 531,000 play ice hockey.

Participation in Major League Soccer (MLS), the highest level of soccer in Canada and the US, from teams in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal all broaden the appeal of the sport and provide a key crossover with more well-established teams across North America. The links to the ever-expanding MLS have propelled the commercialisation and globalisation of the game in Canada, adding another layer to the already booming sports industry.  


With over 100,000 jobs in the sports sector, the multi-billion-dollar industry is continuing to thrive and soccer’s role is becoming increasingly vital. Hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup, including the final, generated $82.9 million dollars from just nine matches in Vancouver. The 2026 FIFA World Cup is expected to bring an even greater economic boost to the country, with the overall profits estimated to be between $3 and $4 billion.

Given the relative success of women’s football in Canada, with the men’s and women’s teams ranked 70th and 8th in the world respectively, soccer has a unique gender divide in the country. Male to female participation is split 59% to 41%, which is considerably more balanced than in most countries, including the UK. While Canada and the US may be considered late arrivals to the world of soccer, their promising female participation rates reveal how in many ways these countries are ahead of the game.

The Canadian sporting landscape will be explored in GIS’ Virtual Toronto Sports Summit, which takes place from 7th-11th June. Register now to gain invaluable insights, hear exclusive talks from industry specialists and more.