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

GW Graham whallops Ballenas Whalers in junior football playoff

Logan Buchwitz scored four touchdowns for the Grizzlies in a one-sided 40-0 win.

GW Graham grad Ethan Mastin wins Atlantic University Sport football title

Mastin helped his St. Francis Xavier X-Men top St. Mary’s U in last weekend’s AUS championship game.

Sardis Falcon Nick Butler named to Nissan Titan All-Canadian Team

The receiver is one of 70 high schoolers who will travel to Edmonton during the CFL’s Grey Cup week.

Country talent Petunia returns to Bozzini’s in Chilliwack Saturday

Petunia, performing Nov. 17, is referred to as ‘The Savior of Country Music’

Superstore steps into vacancy left by Sears to help every family celebrate Christmas this year

Ann Davis Transition Society has paired with the grocery giant to host a Christmas drive on Nov. 17

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Regulatory confusion over ‘toxic’ stink near Abbotsford school

Officials sniffing out which regulators responsible for enforcing compliance at neighbouring property

Most Read