National team head coach John Herdman says the Canadian Premier League is crucial to the future of Canadian soccer, but he wants to see it get younger.
Canada’s long-awaited domestic pro league, which includes Island-based Pacific FC, begins its second season this spring.
“The CPL will continue to grow. I would like to see it younger, with 17- and 18-year-olds with a genuine chance of springboarding to the next level,” Herdman said.
“The CPL can be a real platform, a real springboard, for young players.”
Herdman said that by 19 or 20, truly elite players are already breaking into top-level clubs in Europe.
Herdman pointed to a player such as Tristan Borges, the 21-year-old MVP and Golden Boot winner of the CPL’s inaugural season in 2019, as being part of the generation that will represent Canada at the 2026 World Cup, to be co-hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada with automatic host berths expected for the three nations.
Hamilton-native Borges was recently sold by Forge FC to Belgian club Oud-Heverlee Leuven for a reported fee of between $300,000 to $500,000.
Canadian bench boss Herdman made his comments Friday while announcing that Canada will play Trinidad and Tobago on March 27 at Westhills Stadium in Langford as part of the process to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
This is a guy who isn’t content to wait for the gift host berth in 2026.
“We want to earn the right [for Qatar 2022],” said Herdman.
Canada has not qualified for the World Cup since Island players Ian Bridge, George Pakos, Jamie Lowery and former Canadian captain and veteran University of Victoria Vikes coach Bruce Wilson played in the 1986 tournament.
But Herdman had a sobering assessment of what it will take to compete seriously at the World Cup level. He said Canada will need the equivalent of six players the calibre of Alphonso Davies, the young Canadian who plays for Bayern Munich.
“To compete at the World Cup, a country needs at least six players who are top-level players on top-level world clubs,” said Herdman.
The CPL will play a role in that process at the starting pro level, he indicated.