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

UPDATED: Boys and Girls Club looking for new home in Rimbey

The organization has lost their dedicated space at the Peter Lougheed Community Centre

Rimbey RCMP ask people to watch for ‘funny money’

RCMP says local businesses have received counterfeit currency in recent transactions

NDP Leader Rachel Notley stops in Red Deer on campaign trail

Notley promises hospital expansion, cath lab, pipelines and energy industry expansion

PHOTOS: Rimbey Library packed during petting zoo

Rimbey kids had a great time at the Zoo 2 U Petting Zoo

Rimbey Museum to display heritage quilts

The quilts were found recently at the Rimbey Hospital and Care Centre

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

Fierce house cat spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Wilson-Raybould to reveal more details, documents on SNC-Lavalin affair

Former attorney general has written to the House of Commons justice committee

Anti-discrimination group wants to map offenders with cross-Canada hate atlas

Morgane Oger Foundation issues call for volunteers to help build Canadian Atlas of Populist Extremism

GM announces jobs, electric vehicle after Trump criticism

The company says it will spend $300 million at its plant in Orion Township

Trucker who caused Broncos crash likely to be deported: lawyer

The Crown has asked that Sidhu serve 10 years in prison

China chemical plant blast kills 47, injures hundreds more

This is one of China’s worst industrial accidents in recent years

Most Read