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Red Summer: Second half of 2015 Crucial for Canadian Soccer

It's been a while since games for the Canadian men's and women's national team have mattered, now it is time for the team's to make sure they are memorable.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012 everything was coming along perfectly for Canadian soccer. The women's team had become the nation's darlings after shocking the world to win their first ever Olympic medal, a bronze, at the London Olympics.

Meanwhile, the men's national team was also turning heads in World Cup qualifying as they were inching closer and closer to their first World Cup appearance since 1986. There were rumours the reinforcements were coming too, as Junior Hoillet and Jonathan De Guzman looked ready to wear red.

Then it all came to a halt in San Pedro Sula, the Honduran city that will continue to represent the Canadian soccer version of hell for many years to come. The men's national team were stunned 8-1 by the Hondurans just one game away from making the final stage of World Cup qualifying.

While the women's team wasn't directly affected by the loss in Honduras, they chose a similar time to go off the rails. After their Olympic Games feat there has been a hangover for the team as they haven't looked like world beaters again.

Since 2012 Canadian soccer has been a national joke. This summer, both national teams have a chance to stop the laughter. As a result the next couple of months could be massive for the program.

The women's team are the obvious headliners with the World Cup on home soil just a couple of days away. They once again have the inside track to the nation's hearts.

This time, however, it is not going to be as easy. At home and with an augmented profile on the World stage they aren't going to catch anyone off guard.

More exposure for this team, which there has certainly been if one has even briefly perused through any TSN media outlets, will only mean potentially unrealistic expectations for this Canadian team.

Realistic expectations would be going out in the quarter-finals, where they are likely to meet Japan or the United States. But the games have yet to be played, and there's always a chance Canada can use home soil advantage to inspire a nation once again and go deep in this tournament.

While it has been three years since the women's team made headlines, the men haven't been the talk of the country for more than a decade. That is when they shocked everyone and won the 2000 Gold Cup, earning a spot in the 2001 Confederation's Cup.

This summer's Gold Cup tournament will give them a similar opportunity, but they won't even need to win the trophy to turn heads. All they have to do is get as far as the semi-final stage, something they haven't done since 2007 when they lost 2-1 to the US on a controversial non-goal.

A semi-final appearance would put them in a playoff game to reach the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the 100th year of the storied tournament where they would play the best teams from all of the Americas. It would be the biggest tournament Canada has played in since 2001, arguably bigger.

Not to be outdone, the fall will bring Olympic qualifiers, and another massive opportunity with them. The last two times the Canadian U-23 side has come within one game of the big event, including 2011 which saw them shock the United States 2-0.

This year the squad is even more talented, and could include such names as Cyle Larin, Doneil Henry, Sam Piette, Fraser Aird, Sam Adekugbe and Keven Aleman. Canadian manager Benito Floro has already put a big emphasis on how important Olympic qualification would be for the program.

Outside of the World Cup, the Olympics are the biggest tournament for which the Canadian team can qualify in terms of national exposure. It is also significantly easier and more likely that we see Canada in Brazil in 2016 than in Russia two years later.

Add in the first couple of rounds of World Cup qualifying and the Pan Am Games in Canada for both the men's and women's teams and this is a massive end of the year for Canadian soccer after years of being outside of the spotlight.

That spotlight only comes around every so often, and each time Canada fails to perform while under it they get further and further from their goal of national team soccer becoming relevant in this country.

If they can buck that trend this summer, however, it would be a perfect time to emerge, especially with the growth the sport is undergoing in this country.

The dark days of Canadian soccer aren't over just yet, but under the sun of summer 2015 there is a chance that they could be at least partially forgotten. That opportunity makes this the biggest summer for the program since 2012.