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What's next for the Canada Men's National Team?

The Canadian men's soccer team was thrown into chaos late last month when head coach John Herdman opted to resign after more than five successful years in charge.

Herdman decided to leave his position with the national team in favour of a move into club management, as he has been confirmed as the new head coach of MLS outfit Toronto FC, a position he will officially take up from October 1st.

The 48-year old said it was "the right time for a new challenge" and that he was excited to move into the "structure of a club environment" for the first time in his career.

Since Herdman stepped down, his former assistant Mauro Biello has taken the interim head coaching role while hoping for the eventual removal of the interim tag.

But what does Herdman's departure mean for the Canadian national team less than three years before they are due to host the 2026 World Cup alongside the United States and Mexico?

Biello in pole position to succeed Herdman

The man perhaps in pole position to land the role is Mauro Biello, who worked as Herdman's assistant with the national side and has been placed in charge for the interim. 

Having also previously worked as head coach of Canada's under-20s, Biello knows the squad inside out and he has an opportunity to lay his claim for the position on a permanent basis during the Oct. 13 friendly against Japan. 

Other potential contenders are Bobby Smyrniotis and Pa-Modou Kah, who both have enjoyed success managing in the Canadian Premier League - Smyrniotis with Forge FC and Kah with Pacific FC. 

Both of those contenders, as well as Biello, may well be appealing options for the Canadian Soccer Association with finances believed to be tight, but if they were to look further afield then Panama boss Thomas Christiansen could be worth considering. Christiansen almost guided Panama to last year's World Cup, while this year he helped the team make it all the way to the Gold Cup final, beating Costa Rica, Qatar and the United States along the way before narrowly losing 1-0 to Mexico. 

A former Spain international who has previously managed English giants Leeds United, Christiansen may be the glamour choice for Canadian supporters, although he has recently signed a new contract with Panama, which may make his appointment tricky.

Herdman leaves lasting legacy

Herdman's association with Canadian soccer predates him taking up the head coach position of the men's national side in January 2018.

He spent seven years in charge of the women's team, leading them to bronze medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, as well as a run to the quarter finals of the 2015 Women's World Cup, which was held on Canadian soil.

The Englishman, who also had a spell in charge of New Zealand's women's team, proved an instant hit with the Canadian men's side, leading them to their highest-ever world ranking of 33rd in early 2022.

Later that same year, Herdman wrote his name into Canadian soccer folklore by guiding the men's team to just their second World Cup finals appearance and first for 36 years.

The tournament itself in Qatar did not go the way Herdman would have been hoping, as Canada lost all three of their matches against Belgium, Croatia and Morocco to exit at the group stage, but it was a great experience for the team ahead of the 2026 tournament, which they have already qualified for as co-hosts.

Herdman was expected to be the man to lead them into that home tournament, but the relationship between him and the Canadian Soccer Association started to unravel during 2023, with the head coach questioning the amount of resources being put into the national side.

That criticism came just two months before Herdman opted to leave his role and head for Toronto, a team that sits rock bottom of the Eastern Conference standings in the MLS but are clearly able to match their incoming coach's ambitions.

Canada were not in action during September's international break, which has given the organization's higher-ups time to consider their options to replace Herman, with the team not playing again until next month when they face Japan in a friendly.

Canada need to get appointment right

Whoever does end up succeeding Herdman in the dugout on a permanent basis will have one main target on their agenda - the 2026 World Cup.

Canada may be co-hosting that tournament but they are +10000 to go on and be crowned world champions, much longer odds than their co-hosts, the United States (+3300) and Mexico (+5000).

Those odds are no surprise when you consider Canada have lost all six of their previous matches at men's World Cup finals, conceding 12 goals and scoring just two, but expectations will be much higher this time around given their hosting duties and with key players such as Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David coming into their peak years.

Enjoying a successful World Cup in three years time will be the ultimate goal for whoever does take charge, but in the near future Canada also have crucial matches to come in the CONCACAF Nations League this November, a tournament which could see them qualify for the 2024 Copa America, which would act as important preparation for the World Cup.

For both short and long term reasons, Canada need to get this appointment right, although there is no doubt whoever does succeed Herdman will have big shoes to fill.

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