VANCOUVER, BC – This Sunday at BC Place, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will play their first-ever Canada Day home match in Major League Soccer (4 p.m. PT at BC Place – tickets still available). And it’s an opportunity to celebrate the past, present, and future generations of Canadian soccer.
Each era will be represented in one way or another.
Members of Canada’s first – and to date only – World Cup team from 1986 will be honoured prior to the match. You’ll more than likely see a few Canadians on the pitch with Alphonso Davies, Marcel de Jong, Doneil Henry, and Russell Teibert playing key roles for the ‘Caps this year.
And of course there will be many young Canadians in the building, including Davies himself, hoping to don the Maple Leaf at the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which was awarded to Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. earlier this month.
With a home World Cup on the horizon, this is an important time for soccer in our country. Perhaps the most important. And though it’s hard to predict what might transpire over the next eight years, there are certainly some reasons for optimism.
“I actually think Canadian soccer right now is in a pretty good place,” Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi told TSN Radio Vancouver. “If you look at the MLS clubs … the start up of the CPL, that will be another run of soccer that young players can look to be a part of and then make that next step, you look at the grassroots game, participation is the most of any other sport. So what the 2026 World Cup will do, I think, is just further accelerate the profile of the sport and the interest in the sport. And you’ve got eight years to work towards that.”
And one of the biggest reasons for optimism is right underneath our noses.
It’s no secret at this point that Davies is the brightest young talent Canada has seen in a long time – maybe even ever. The product of Edmonton, Alberta has made massive strides since joining Whitecaps FC in 2015, progressing through the club’s Residency program and United Soccer League side before earning his stripes with the first team.
Nowadays, the 17-year-old winger is a regular starter for the ‘Caps and one of the most dangerous attacking pieces in all of MLS. At the midway point of the season, Davies has two goals and a team-high seven assists – tied for third most in MLS. It's no surprise, therefore, that he was named to the MLS All-Star roster on Friday.
He has also impressed with the national team, scoring three goals in six appearances.
When the next World Cup rolls around, Davies will be 21 years old. And in 2026, he will be 25, which is a salivating prospect indeed. If the youngster continues working hard and remains grounded, the sky is truly the limit.
“This is a very special young man,” Canadian national team head coach John Herdman told TSN Radio Vancouver. “The biggest thing he brought to the party? When he raised that Canadian flag and showed his citizenship. That young man probably could have done other things and went to other places, but he chose Canada. And I think what he did was send a very clear message to all our young talented players that this country means something. Now if you decide to stay in this country, you get the chance to play with one of the brightest prospects this country has ever seen. Whether it’s his speech at FIFA, the goals he’s scoring or assisting at the Whitecaps, what that man has done is lay a very strong foundation and a path for our young players to follow.”
But one player alone will not make this happen.
Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction, including Canada’s three MLS clubs, the incoming Canadian Premier League, and everyone within the Canadian Soccer Association. This has to be a joint effort, because there are no shortage of high-potential Canadian players coming through the ranks.
In MLS alone, there are a number of Canadian players making a big impact for their respective teams, including the likes of Davies, de Jong, Henry, Teibert, Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Samuel Piette (Montreal Impact), and Mark Anthony-Kaye (Los Angeles Football Club).
And let’s not discount the recent Toulon Tournament.
It was the first time Canada had participated in the prestigious U-21 competition that has been graced by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, and Thierry Henry. And Canada went unbeaten in the group stage, defeating Turkey and earning draws against Portugal and Japan, before falling 2-1 to France.
Four players from the ‘Caps program were a part of Canada’s squad, including first-year MLS midfielder David Norman Jr. and goalscorers Theo Bair and Noah Verhoeven. And they were joined by three players from Toronto FC's program, five players from Montreal Impact's program, and the likes of Liam Millar (Liverpool FC U-23), Alessandro Busti (Juventus Primavera), Derek Cornelius (FK Javor Ivanjica), and Jonathan David (KAA Gent II), who are currently plying their trade in Europe.
These players now have their sights on 2026, like millions of other young Canadians, which could be the motivational tool and unifying juncture that Canadian soccer needs.
The opportunity is front of us – now, it’s a matter of taking it.
“We’re not here to participate,” Herdman said. “We’re here to really push the expectation levels. When that happens, people tend to rise. I’m absolutely clear they’ll take this country to places it’s never been before … you have to believe that these things can happen. There’s a group of men here, including Alphonso, that play with no fear. And they’re going into this with a mindset that Canada can.”