Long gone are the days where Canadian soccer fans only talk of other nations going to the FIFA World Cup, the most important tournament in the sport.
Regardless of Thursday’s loss against Costa Rica, Canada still remains on top of the qualifying table. Canada’s next and last qualifying match is on Sunday at BMO Field in Toronto.
Only an unimaginably unlikely scenario would prevent them from going to Qatar 2022, their second participation ever and first world cup action since 1986.
John Molinaro, a Canadian soccer journalist who has been covering the game for over 20 years, explains that the reasons for Canada’s soccer success are quite simple.
“This is the most talented Canadian team of all time. When you’re talking about players of the caliber of Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and Cyle Larin, obviously they are playing quite well for the national team but they’re also regular starters for top European teams who have been playing in the Champions League,” says Molinaro.
Canada has also incorporated many players that thrive in Major League Soccer (MLS) at their respective positions. MLS is the highest level of soccer played in the United States and Canada.
Additionally, Canada hired a great coach. John Herdman is a proven success with lots of experience and has the numbers to back it up. He commanded the Canadian women’s soccer team, leaving them as back-to-back Olympic bronze medal winners in the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. He joined the men’s team in 2018.
“He deserves a lot of the credit because he’s really changed the culture of this team from one where beforehand Canada often played very timid, without much confidence. Now they go out in the game thinking that they can likely beat anyone they’d face and go after the best teams in CONCACAF,” Molinaro says.
Under Herdman’s management, Canada moved to No. 40 from No. 72 in the world rankings, its highest-ever position. Most recently, FIFA also recognized Canada as the “Most Improved Side” in 2021.
Finally, MLS has given many more opportunities to Canadian players.
“I think MLS has given a lot of opportunities to Canadian players that 30 years ago weren’t there. Players were very much on their own, they had to sort of make their own opportunities and travel abroad if they wanted to break in as professionals,” Molinaro said.