With qualification for FIFA World Cup 2018 sadly in the rearview mirror, and the excitement about a potential 2026 hosting bid on the horizon, there needs to be a question addressed in Canadian Men’s National Team circles.
What about 2022 in Qatar?
Sadly, there isn’t enough talent in the current player pool to cause any fan to be giddy. Although we stand behind our team to the end, and support whomever puts on the red kit, we must admit that this is the soul-sapping reality. The Canadian Soccer Association’s Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) curriculum coupled with the formation of the Canadian Premier League (CPL) are great initiatives, but they will take time to bear fruits. This will be crucial for our participation in 2026.
2022? Not so much.
This brings up the controversial question of naturalization. Birthright and ancestral bloodlines play no part. Not only is this a debate in Canadian circles, but worldwide. Many players have switched allegiances during their playing careers – Diego Costa (Spain), Eduardo Da Silva (Croatia). Under this rule, you must be uncapped and have resided in your choice nation continuously for 5 years. Here is the rule itself:
Article 17: Acquisition of a new nationality, states:
Any Player who … [assumes] a new nationality and who has not played international football [in a match … in an official competition of any category or any type of football for one Association] shall be eligible to play for the new representative team only if he fulfills one of the following conditions:
(a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
(d) He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association.
Part “d”. Let this marinate for a moment.
This rule opens up a few opportunities for Canada to put out some feelers. In no way should this be the primary method for assembling a squad. This is not my argument. But if improvements can be made by adding a few pieces of quality…bring it on!
Here are a few players that the CSA should consider kicking tires on for the 2022 qualifying cycle:
Nick Hagglund : The 24 year old defender is currently entering his 4th season with Toronto FC. Currently uncapped by the United States, Nick could bring versatility as a CB or RB. He could be a depth piece for a backline that certainly needs it.
David Ousted: The big Danish keeper will be between the sticks for a 5th season in 2017 with the Vancouver Whitecaps. He is one of the best in MLS. Period. Although he will be 34 by the time qualifying rolls around, he could be the perfect short term fix, as keepers generally have longer careers. Ousted has only appeared for Denmark at the U-19 level. He should definitely be approached.
Justin Morrow : He is a longshot at best, but worth reaching out to, as he doesn’t seem to figure in the United States’ and Bruce Arena’s plans. He is one of MLS’s best left backs and a lynchpin for TFC. He is currently 29 years old and is entering his 4th season with the club. Ironically, his only appearance for the USMNT was during a friendly against Canada 4 years ago. He was also an unused substitute for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March of 2013. Since neither of these situations meet the criteria for FIFA eligibility – appearing on the pitch in a competitive match – Justin could be available should the CSA come calling. It would be great if he were open to the possibility.
Others to Inquire About: Ignacio Piatti, Marky Delgado, Matias Laba
Qatar 2022 is not that far away. Navigating around the complex criteria of FIFA eligibility takes time and work. It doesn’t always produce tangible results because FIFA seems to rule on a case-by-case basis. The CSA should be doing anything and everything to improve their chances of qualifying. These could be band-aid solutions. They might even be roads to nowhere.
But sometimes roads to lead to unexpected destinations.
By William Jamieson