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Golden generation leads Canada to top of 2022 Qatar World Cup qualification

Somehow, some way, the top North American soccer team in 2022 is the Canada men’s national team.

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see it’s no fluke. You will find a golden generation of talent earning their success through a difficult journey to the top, and a coach who left success to gamble on this group.

With three matches remaining, Canada sits atop the World Cup qualifying standings in CONCACAF, four points clear of both Mexico and the United States. Canada is on the precipice of just its second World Cup berth. It’s only other WC appearance came in 1986, where Canada lost all three matches, surrendering five goals and scoring none. Canada won a gold medal in men’s soccer in the 1904 Summer Olympics.

But coach John Herdman and young club stars like Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Lille’s Jonathan David are helping Canadians forget the past and forge a new soccer identity. Canada has experienced 20 years of soccer success with the women’s national team. Herdman was given the coaching job with Canada’s women’s team in 2011, winning the bronze medal at the following year’s Olympics, the country’s first in a traditional team sport for 76 years. They repeated the feat in Rio in 2016.

Herdman took the men’s job in 2018, and the wins followed. Canada had not even reached the final phase of CONCACAF qualification for the previous World Cup. But along with Herdman’s arrival, Canada’s national team was marked by the arrival of a generation of new young players, led by Davies, the first Canadian winner of the Champions League, and David, who joined Lille for a €30-million fee in 2020.

Such talent is allowing Canada to do more than just stay in games but take them to the opposition. They have already negotiated away fixtures against the United States and Mexico in maintaining their unbeaten record, the second coming in the Estadio Azteca.

Canada began the third round of World Cup qualifying unbeaten in its first eleven matches, finishing 2021 with its first win over Mexico in over 20 years to finish the year at the top of the table. It also ended the year 40th in the FIFA World Rankings, its highest-ever position, earning the team the honor of “Most Improved Side” after having started the year ranked 72nd.

The top three teams in the CONCACAF table get automatic berths to Qatar 2022, with the fourth-place team being forced to settle for an intercontinental playoff against a team from Oceania for one of the final World Cup spots.

Currently, Panama is in fourth, four back of the USMNT and El Tri for an automatic spot and eight behind Canada. With only nine points available, Canada’s qualification is virtually assured. Canada can put the finishing touches on a World Cup berth as soon as Matchday 1 of the next qualifying window on March 24 by beating Costa Rica outright, or a Panama loss or draw against Honduras.

Canadian soccer fans have waited 36 years for this moment. The wait is almost over.

If you are interested in following Canada to the World Cup in Qatar, check out our Follow Your Team packages with Bucket List Events. Our staff will be on the ground in Qatar to assist you every step of the way.

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