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Canada's World Cup run inspires a soccer-hungry nation

The Canadian men's national team's time in the World Cup is ending, but their time in the spotlight is really just beginning -- and that's inspiring a nation. 

The team crashed out of the tourney Thursday after three hard fought losses in a tough group. But the long-term benefit and exposure gained for the sport during the three matches might've been worth the short-term pain. 

"We've left a legacy for the young players to follow through on," defender Sam Adekugbe said. "And ultimately, we're on our way to be a better place. 

"We just hope everyone comes with us."

Adekugbe -- who is London-born and Calgary-raised -- had a part in Canada's lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Morocco Thursday. 

He also may be a perfect role model for the next generation, according to those in the sport.

"We're really proud of Sam," Calgary Minor Soccer Association Executive Director Carlo Bruneau said. "For our community to see that you can come from anywhere and then compete at the highest level on the largest stage in the world, it really gives that 'see it and you can be it' feeling."

Soccer is still a growing sport in Canada, and this World Cup will no doubt boost that momentum. Local enrolment is recently up as much as 40 per cent in outdoor leagues and 15 per cent in indoor ones.

The association says some of that can be chalked up to the Canadian men's squad and its thrilling qualification campaign.

"To be involved in the largest sporting event in the entire universe and to see our players compete at the highest level is really going to inspire our community and country to become a football nation," Bruneau said. "It's truly showing a pathway of where you can get to in soccer."

Increased registration in the sport brings funding, which, in turn, brings new, development facilities. 

"Buildings (like indoor field Calgary West) provide a good environment and allow us to play our game year round," Calgary West Soccer Technical Director Connor Brady said. "I think all those things add into what is a program that can have some longevity on the world stage."

And so begins a development cycle that could produce the next Adekugbe. Or, at the very least, a cycle that will instil some good life lessons.

"That homegrown talent is important for our kids to see the potential and opportunity," Brady told CTV News. "It's important for them to see that it is possible. (The team was) able to motivate and inspire an entire country, and though it didn't go the way they wanted, that's football. 

"Our sport offers us a ton of opportunities to learn those life skills."

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