The EA Sport's FIFA series is one of the most successful in video game history. However, recently it has served another major purpose. It has become an encyclopedia of sorts, displaying new teams, and new players across the soccer world that fans may not have been exposed to otherwise.
Until recently, there has been a notable omission in that encyclopedia, at least to those who were supporters of Canadian soccer. Despite the fact that the game's main offices were in Vancouver, the Canadian men's national team was not included in the game.
Yesterday, it was announced that for the first time in several years Canada will be one of the 48 international teams represented in FIFA 16. The game is set to be released on September 22 in North America.
The Canadian women's team had already been confirmed in the game in May, along with a number of other national teams as women will be playable characters for the first time in FIFA history. Christine Sinclair will be on the Canadian FIFA 16 cover.
It's not that this isn't a significant development for the Canadian women, it is and will expose them to new markets. However, they have already earned their place in the hearts and minds of the Canadian public.
The men's national team, on the other hand, is still well outside of the public conscience. Earlier this week was the 30th anniversary since the team has qualified for a World Cup, doing so only once, in 1986.
Especially for the young generation, having Canada as a playable team will be massive for their exposure. It will give young Canadians a chance to learn the player's names, their abilities, and hopefully will get them interested in the real thing.
As soccer continues its climb upwards in this country, even threatening hockey as the most popular sport among millennials and below, Canada soccer will have to fight tooth and nail to find themselves a foothold in that ascension.
That means bidding for a World Cup. something they are already prepared to do for the 2026 edition of the tournament. It potentially means creating a new national league to give young Canadians a professional environment in which to develop their game. That is coming down the pipeline, expected to be announced in the next year.
However, don't underrate the significance of Canada's inclusion in FIFA 16 in terms of the development of the Canadian game. While it is a game played on a TV, its touch will be felt on the fields and in the stands.
Just listen to the tale of Adebayo Akinfenwa, a lower league English striker who currently plays for AFC Wimbledon in Football League Two. Akinfenwa was given a 99 strength rating (the maximum), causing gamers to take notice of what would be an otherwise unknown player. Akinfenwa now has 150,000 twitter followers and his own clothing line.
Canada are currently ranked 102nd in the World according to the FIFA rankings, and have had trouble drawing home crowds for national team games as of late. They recently mutually terminated a TV deal with Sportsnet, and an away World Cup qualifier against Belize wasn't shown on TV at all.
However, for once this is a step in the right direction for the program, even if it a baby step and even if its significance may not be tangible at first. Canadian soccer is in the game, and hopefully that will help the team up its game.