Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team was named 2022 The Canadian Press Team of the Year after returning to the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 36 years. Canada qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and finished first overall in the Concacaf Final Round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
“It’s a huge honour,” said John Herdman, Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Head Coach. “I think it’s a testament to the sacrifices (and) the hard work that’s gone in over a couple of decades behind the scenes — the struggles for many of the past players and staff and coaches, for the organisation, I think for everyone.”
This marks just the third time that a soccer team has been voted The Canadian Press Team of the Year and the first time that soccer teams have won the award in back-to-back years. Before the Men’s National Team in 2022, Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team won The Canadian Press Team of the Year award in both 2012 (Olympic Bronze in London) and 2021 (Olympic Gold in Japan).
Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team finished first in the 2022 national poll with 23 of 48 votes while Tennis Canada’s Davis Cup Team finished second with 19 votes and Hockey Canada’s Women’s National Team finished third with five votes. Earlier this week, Tennis Canada’s Félix Auger-Aliassime was voted The Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year while Marie-Philip Poulin was voted The Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year. Canada Soccer’s Alphonso Davies finished second in voting by Auger-Aliassime for the athlete award.
“This group of players and staff over the last four years have really binded together and gone through probably the most difficult qualifying campaign through a COVID window,” said Herdman. “Then we were able to step onto the world stage and inspire people through our performances, let people know we’re a football nation and that we can score goals at a World Cup against good teams.”
Canada’s squad at the FIFA World Cup featured captain Atiba Hutchinson along with teammates Samuel Adekugbe, Milan Borjan Tajon Buchanan, Lucas Cavallini, Derek Cornelius, Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies, Stephen Eustáquio, Liam Fraser, Junior Hoilett, Alistair Johnston, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Ismaël Koné, Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea, Liam Millar, Kamal Miller, Jonathan Osorio, James Pantemis, Samuel Piette, Dayne St. Clair, Iké Ugbo, Steven Vitória, Joel Waterman, and David Wotherspoon. Unavailable for Qatar through injuries but part of the 2022 squad that finished first in Concacaf were Maxime Crépeau, Doneil Henry and Scott Kennedy.
“I think a lot of people expected Canada to be a passive team that would defend to counterattack.” said Herdman. “There was a refreshing excitement about the way Canada set out to play at this World Cup. I think that’s really helped our players, that we were able to attack in a way that we got see our attacking qualities.”
As for coach Herdman, he is just the eighth team sport coach to lead his team to The Canadian Press Team of Year award more than once. He is also just the second coach after Scotty Bowman to lead two different senior teams to the award: while Bowman was in charge of both Hockey Canada’s 1976 Canada Cup team and the Montréal Canadiens’ 1977 and 1978 Stanley Cup teams, Herdman has been in charge of both Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team in 2012 and the Men’s National Team in 2022. Herdman’s teams were also Postmedia Canadian Team of the Year award winners in both 2012 and 2016 (back-to-back Olympic Bronze Medals).
Looking ahead to the next four-year cycle, Canada will compete in the FIFA World Cup 2026 as one of three co-hosts alongside Mexico and USA. The new journey starts in March 2023 with the continuation of 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League and a potential berth at the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup, the region’s biennial confederation championship.