Canada’s men’s national soccer team will feature a squad near full strength for three crucial World Cup qualifying games, with veteran Atiba Hutchinson and young stars Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David returning to the fold after missing the recent Gold Cup.
Canada Soccer announced its squad for its games early September to open the final round of World Cup qualifying for the CONCACAF region, which involves teams from North and South America and the Caribbean.
Canada is in the final round for the first time in nearly 25 years.
The Canadians made it to the semifinal of the Gold Cup — the championship for the CONCACAF region — before losing a 2-1 heartbreaker to Mexico. The run was made more impressive by Canada’s glaring absences in its lineup.
Hutchinson and David were left off Canada’s final Gold Cup roster with their European seasons on the horizon. Davies was firstly slated to play before injuring his ankle in training.
All three bring a champion’s pedigree to the Canadian squad. Davies helped Bayern collect Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League titles last season. David’s Lille squad captured France’s Ligue 1 title while Hutchinson’s Beşiktaş won Turkey’s Super Lig.
Hutchinson, a veteran of 85 caps — second-most in national team history behind Julian de Guzman’s 90 — is a six-time Canada Soccer men’s player of the year and has served as captain for Canada.
Davies, already a two-time Canadian player of the year at age 20, is still in his first cycle of World Cup qualifiers.
But the lightning-quick Davies, who has played both left back and winger, has made a mark for Canada with nine goals in 23 appearances.
David, 21, has scored at a torrid pace internationally with 15 goals in 16 appearances.
Striker Cyle Larin (40 caps, 18 goals), Hutchinson’s Beşiktaş teammate, and Tajon Buchanan were among those named to the squad.
Buchanan, 22, was awarded the Gold Cup’s Best Youth Player honor and was named to the tournament’s best 11.
A key name missing from the squad is forward Ayo Akinola. The Toronto FC forward injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in a 1-0 loss to the United States at the Gold Cup. Larin was injured in the same match but has since returned to action with Beşiktaş.
Canada starts its final stage of World Cup qualifying with a Sept. 2 match against Honduras at Toronto’s BMO Field. Canada then travels to Nashville for a Sept. 5 game versus the U.S., before returning to BMO Field for a Sept. 8 contest against El Salvador.
“These men know they have a great opportunity to play in front of our fans for the first time in nearly two years, but more importantly the chance to get our campaign off to a great start in the next round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” Canada coach John Herdman said in a statement.
“There’s been a lot of competition for places in this selection, so assembling this squad posed some nice problems for a coach.” Canada will play eight of its 14 qualifying matches in 2021. After September’s fixtures, Canada plays three games in October and two in November.