The United States and Canada are the first and third most populous countries in CONCACAF and the first and third richest countries in the region. They share a border and have a lot in common, including similar growth in the sport of soccer in the last several decades. Naturally, they are bitter soccer rivals, right? Wrong.
It looks like everything is lined up for the Americans and Canadians to be soccer rivals battling it out, along with Mexico, for CONCACAF supremacy, but there's one thing getting in the way -- Canada is not very good. And not very good is a very nice way of putting it.
Despite the population, money, resources and a growing support for the sport in the country that now has three MLS teams, Canada hasn't been able to put it together and get a decent national squad. They have only qualified for one World Cup, way back in 1986, and haven't even made it to the final round of qualifying since 1998. If they can't even play well enough to get into an important match, then it is going to be tough to have any rivals at all.
All the while, the U.S. has just been getting better in the sport. They qualified for their first World Cup of the modern era in 1990, hosted the tournament in 1994, went all the way to the quarterfinals in 2002, and for most, if not all, of the 2000s were the top team in the region. They have played in the last six World Cups, have beaten some of the world powers and, all the while, have gained respect around the world.
Now the U.S. is hoping to take the next step as a national team. They want to continue to win and compete for the top spot in CONCACAF (which is currently occupied by Mexico), while also picking up results against teams from around the world and doing it while playing an attractive, attacking style of soccer. Enter Jurgen Klinsmann.
Klinsmann took over as the U.S. manager last August with the goal of developing that entertaining style of play and putting the U.S. in position to make a deep run in the 2014 World Cup. Before they can worry about the World Cup, though, they have to worry about qualifying, and that road to qualification begins next week. That means that when the U.S. takes on Canada on Sunday in Toronto, it will be their final friendly before World Cup qualifying gets underway and their final chance to fine-tune. As you might guess, it's important.
The U.S. is trying to make it to its seventh straight World Cup, while Canada is trying to make it to its second, ever. They teams have different profiles, but the same goal: to play in Brazil in the summer of 2014. The road there starts next week. Before that, though, they need to make sure they are ready, which they will do against each other on Sunday. Who knows, maybe a spirited match and a little bit of success on Canada's part in qualifying and this could finally be the rivalry it should be.
United States vs. Canada
Game Date/Time: Sunday, June 3, 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
TV: NBC Sports Network (USA), Sportsnet (Canada)
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