Host­ing World Cup gives coun­try clar­ity, Herd­man

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - NEIL DAVID­SON

TORONTO — The prospect of coach­ing a World Cup on home soil helped draw John Herd­man to leave his New Zealand coach­ing job to take over the Cana­dian women.

In­spire the na­tion was the Cana­dian women’s mantra three years ago. Now Herd­man, in charge of the Cana­dian men’s pro­gram, has another home soc­cer show­case to look for­ward to in the wake of Wed­nes­day’s vote award­ing the 2026 men’s World Cup to the joint North Amer­i­can bid of Canada, the U.S. and Mex­ico.

“It’s fan­tas­tic. It’s big mo­ment, a huge mo­ment,” Herd­man said in an in­ter­view. “I thought the Women’s World Cup in 2015 would be sort of the pin­na­cle of be­ing part of Cana­dian foot­ball. But this is just mas­sive for our coun­try. I think we all know the im­pact this will have both on and off the field.

FIFA and CONCACAF have yet to say whether all three co-hosts will have au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion for ’26 as is the norm. Given the ex­panded field of 48 teams — and seven slots for CONCACAF in ’26 as com­pared to 3 1/2 in the cur­rent smaller 32-team ver­sion — and the fact that the home teams will sell tick­ets, it would be a stun­ner if they weren’t a promi­nent fea­ture.

Herd­man has his eyes on another World Cup as well.

“Look, I hope I’m go­ing to be part of the men’s one in Qatar 2022,” he said.

Herd­man says his cur­rent crop of play­ers has a “deep-burn­ing de­sire” to qual­ify for Qatar. Canada has only made one men’s World Cup — in 1986 in Mex­ico when it lost three straight with­out scor­ing a goal.

But he says the suc­cess­ful World Cup bid “changes the land­scape,” offering youth some­thing to shoot for as well as “clar­ity to all of those peo­ple who are pas­sion­ate about our game.”

Herd­man, whose women’s team fin­ished sixth at the 2015 World Cup, says the suc­cess­ful bid means the Cana­dian men’s brain trust can now look at its young tal­ent with a road map in hand.

He says a men’s World Cup team would nor­mally av­er­age be­tween 26 and 28 years old — which would mean play­ers who are be­tween 18 and 20 right now. But he says tal­ent, not age, will de­ter­mine his team, not­ing a player like the 17-year-old Davies bucks all trends.

CHRISTO­PHER KATSAROV THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Na­tional team coach John Herd­man dis­cusses the joint North Amer­i­can bid by Canada, the U.S. and Mex­ico to host the 2026 World Cup.

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