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