How to qualify Canada for the World Cup: Start early, have fun and share info

Canadian men, currently ranked 79th in the world, have qualified just once for the World Cup

Once again Canada is watching the World Cup from the sidelines.

The Canadian men, currently ranked 79th in the world, have qualified just once for the World Cup, in 1986 when they lost to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union and exited without scoring a goal.

Mexico (16 World Cup appearances) and the U.S. (10) have been the traditional heavyweights in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Costa Rica (five), Honduras (three) and El Salvador (two) are the only other CONCACAF teams to make the World Cup finals more than once.

With Canada co-hosting the 2026 World Cup alongside Mexico and the U.S., an automatic berth is likely — if yet unconfirmed. Expansion to a 48-team field will also help Canada’s chances in 2026 and beyond.

But the Canadian Soccer Association wants to get in via the front door in future tournaments, including 2022. And there is new blood in the program, currently under renovation by men’s coach John Herdman, who switched over from the women’s side in January.

Here is Canada Soccer’s blueprint to get there, as detailed by Herdman, technical director Jason deVos and general secretary Peter Montopoli.

BEST IN CONCACAF

Herdman says while Canada may never be able to compete with the football culture and numbers of Mexico or the dollars available in the U.S., “there are things in Canada we genuinely can be best at.”

That includes areas like sports science and mental preparation, with Herdman listing off names like Penny Werthner, Ceri Evans, Ian Renshaw, Nicola Hodges.

“We have got the resources, we’ve got the people,” said Herdman, known for leaving no stone unturned. ”And we’ve got a clear template based on the success of the women’s national team, who were able to utilize a lot of these resources and a lot of the learnings have been left behind.”

It also means leaving little to chance. While coach of the Canadian women, currently ranked fifth in the world. Herdman would drill down to timing and traffic patterns getting to stadiums during tournaments.

TALENT PIPELINE

While Canada is huge geographically, Herdman says the number of football leaders is small. That means the number of people to be influenced — or convinced — to join the national vision is smaller than a lot of other countries with a string of leagues and regulatory bodies. While getting everyone “looking in one direction” may be harder than it sounds, Herdman believes hosting the 2026 World Cup will help provide the necessary impetus.

Herdman, who had great success identifying young women’s talent, envisions one clear pathway helping develop players, integrate new migrants into the soccer system or track Canadians who have moved abroad.

The Canadian Premier League, the new men’s pro league set to kick off next spring, offers another piece of the pathway.

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Herdman says Canada Soccer is looking to “streamline our systems behind the scenes” to avoid duplication or mixed messages. That includes everything from how best to marshall a team at a tournament to what Canada expects from each position on the pitch.

Herdman and assistant Mauro Biello, a former Canadian international and Montreal Impact coach, are looking to lead the way, as shown by their taking charge of a Canadian under-21 side that placed a surprising sixth in its first ever appearance at the prestigious Toulon youth tournament.

“The likes of myself and Mauro are willing not to just sit in the ivory tower and look down on the game and just deal with the 23 (senior) players,” says Herdman. “We’re here to system-build, we’re here to lay that foundation for 2026. We’re here to influence what’s happening at the provincial level.”

Herdman’s support crew will be more of the same, he says.

BOTTOM UP

DeVos, a former Canadian national team captain, is preaching change at the youngest level of soccer.

His goal is to train and develop as many coaches at possible at the grassroots level who understand that player development is not linear — that the best eight-year-old isn’t necessarily going to be the best 18-year-old.

“It’s up, down, sideways and it happens in spurts and fits,” says deVos.

Imposing an adult results-based framework on kids doesn’t work, he argues. His goal is to give young players ”access to good environments,” changing structures and rules along the way if needed.

“We should create environments in which they can fall in love with the game, play with their friends on one day and play with similar-ability players on another day,” he adds.

“This notion that anyone can predict where a child is going to be in five, 10, 15 years is laughable. Nobody can do that. So why are we de-selecting kids from programs based on competency as young as the age of seven … These are the lessons that have been taught to us by the other nations who are punching above their weight, who are succeeding.”

In the past, most coaching courses were geared towards working with senior players. Now Canada Soccer is creating coaching license courses that are more age-relevant.

“A 10-year-old is not a miniature 20-year-old,” says deVos.

Like Herdman, deVos reels off a list of academics and experts in child and youth development like Jean Cote, Joe Baker, Adam Baxter-Jones and Tracy Vaillancourt.

“We’ve reached out to them and said ‘Can you help us?’” he says.

“Hot-housing” the best 12-year-olds in the country does not translate into a crop of top pros, he argues.

Instead create good environments, provide good coaches, let young players percolate and allow them to have fun, and deVos believes Canada will have a deeper pool of talent.

A RISING TIDE

All three says Canada’s success in the women’s ranks is a resource that can only help the men’s game. They believe sharing knowledge and best practices can be a benefit.

Herdman brought women’s coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller into the Canada Soccer fold, so the ties are already strong. Montopoli believes Canada is already a leader in the field in developing a symbiotic relationship between the two national teams.

While hockey may be king in Canada, there are more registered soccer than hockey players. And Montopoli notes that Canadians ranked 12th among all countries in terms of purchasing tickets for the World Cup in Russia.

“I feel the sport is incredibly relevant,” says Montopoli.

“We might be one of the few countries that has that relevancy of men’s and women’s football,” he adds.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

City housing crunch leads councillors to pass rezoning application for secondary suites

Many residents of 375 Mandarino Place furious with decision

Morris Bates takes a chance on life

Morris Bates is by far the Cariboo’s most famous entertainer.

Westridge rezoning amendment faces debate at tonight’s council meeting

A contentious application to rezone for secondary suites in Westridge will be discussed during tonight’s council meeting

Neufeld vying for CRD Area E director

Melynda Neufeld is hoping to get her seat back as a director for the Cariboo Regional District.

Emergency crews attend multi-car collision on Highway 97 Tuesday

Three vehicles involved in incident that temporarily impacts traffic

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

A B.C. society helps to reforest Crown land after wildfires

Forest Enhancement Society of BC focuses on wildfire mitigation and the reforestation

Most Read