For the first time in a long time, Canadian soccer fans are feeling a sense of optimism. There have been several positive headlines in recent weeks and months regarding soccer in Canada – particularly in Alberta. Most recently, Calgary’s semi-professional team – Foothills FC – capped off its impressive 2018 season Aug. 5 by winning the Premier Development League (PDL) championship. The PDL is the top U23 league in North America and comprises 74 teams across Canada and the United States, including many youth/reserve squads for Major League Soccer (MLS) teams. So, it’s quite a feat to win the whole thing. Shortly before that, teenage Vancouver Whitecaps star Alphonso Davies signed a big-money move to FC Bayern Munich – the best club in Germany and one of the top five teams worldwide. Davies, who was signed by Bayern for an MLS transfer fee record of $22-million USD, has been playing for the Whitecaps since he was 15 and had his breakout season this year. Still only 17 years old, the kid has huge potential, and it will be exciting to see how he fares in Europe. Davies will follow in the footsteps of Calgarian Owen Hargreaves, who made the same move to Bayern in the mid-1990s. Davies, however, will play for Canada, while Hargreaves opted to play for England. Yet another good piece of soccer news is the announcement of an impending professional league in Canada. The Canadian Premier League will kick off next spring with eight pro sides squaring off, including Cavalry FC in Calgary. While soccer is not considered very popular in Canada, a 5,000-plus crowd at an exhibition game in Halifax – featuring an Atlantic Select squad and a U21 team from Germany – stokes optimism about the viability of the league. And let’s not forget the June 13 announcement that Canada will co-host the FIFA World Cup in 2026, alongside the United States and Mexico. While only 10 games are slated be held in three or four Canadian cities, it’s exciting to know the biggest sporting event in the world will come to our doorstep. Though FIFA hasn’t decided yet, countries that host the tournament usually play in the World Cup by default. That means Canada wouldn’t even have to qualify, which is something our country hasn’t been able to do since 1986. But, considering the new professional league – which will provide more opportunities for talented Canadian players to play professionally – and the potential of young Canadian stars like Davies and Cyle Larin, it’s not unfeasible to think Canada could be strong enough to qualify outright for the 2026 World Cup.