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Potential CanMNT Head Coach Candidates: Who Are They?

Current CanMNT Head Coach, Mauro Biello

EDITORIAL – The search for a permanent CanMNT head coach continues. After the loss against Jamaica, it is anyone’s guess who could be the next permanent head coach of the national team. First, the article will list the four potential candidates, and what they could bring to the national team in alphabetical order of their last names, before discussing who would be considered favourites to become head coach of the team.

Who Could Be the Next Potential Permanent CanMNT Head Coach?

Mauro Biello

Mauro Biello is the current interim head coach of the CanMNT and was the assistant coach when John Herdman was the head coach of the CanMNT. He has every chance to become the permanent head coach of the national team. The new Canada Soccer CEO, Kevin Blue, mentioned this about Biello (source: Staff):

“Mauro and I have spoken several times in the past few days,” Blue said. “We discussed that I will be continuing our search for a permanent head coach. Mauro remains a candidate for the position. This is a major priority for our organization, and I will immediately continue the work that our team has already started.”

READ MORE: The March CanMNT Roster Reveal: Who Is the Next Captain?

The loss against Jamaica might hurt Biello’s chances. However, he is making some bold choices to his roster as he is bringing a very young lineup to this big game against Trinidad and Tobago. Biello also has an extensive head coach and player background in Montreal, so he knows the game thoroughly in Quebec and in Canada. It would not be surprising at all if he continued as head coach of the national team, and since he is the current interim head coach, it gives him an advantage over the other candidates on this list.

READ MORE: Mauro Biello: From Montreal To The CanMNT’s Interim Head Coach

Biello is also committed to giving his best case to become the next permanent head coach. This is what he said in Tom Nightingale’s article by Canada Soccer Daily when he became the interim head coach:

“I’m a product of Canada, I grew up playing in Montreal, I played for the junior national team, I went on to play in Montreal, I went through the different levels of coaching in MLS. I had this opportunity to work with John and I’m looking forward to working with these players and pushing this group forward.”

Thierry Henry

James Sharman is a well-respected and well-known Canadian soccer journalist and the Toronto Star is recognized as a recognizable newspaper outlet in the Greater Toronto Area.

Thierry Henry, is one of two international head coaches listed here. Henry is most famous for playing with Arsenal from 1999-07 as well as the New York Red Bulls from 2010-14. He also represented his country, France, from 1997-2010.

Focusing on his coaching career, he has coached club teams in French-speaking cities or countries like Monaco and Belgium. Specifically, he head coached the Montreal Impact (now called CF Montréal) from 2019-21. There, he won two Canadian Championships, with the 2019 being more impressive as they beat a TFC team that would eventually make the MLS Cup Finals that same year.

This is what Victor Wembanyama said when leaving the English Premier League and playing for Henry in 2020 (source: Kelsey Patters of the Canadian Press):

“It was easy for me,” said Wanyama at Wednesday’s introductory press conference. “He’s the best manager for me. He understands the game very well. I thought I could learn from him, what he’s achieved and the career he’s had. It’s just a no-brainer to want to work with him.

This fact probably makes Henry the favourite to become the next permanent CanMNT head coach. If the source is true, Henry should be considered as a favourite to potentially land the job. He has played at the highest level, and can take his experience as a player to raise the standard of CanMNT players and stars like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

The only knock on Henry is that he has only been around Canadian soccer during his time with the Impact from 2019-21. This puts him at a disadvantage when looking at Biello and the two head coaches below him in terms of experience with Canadian Soccer.

Bobby Smyrniotis

Bobby Smryrniotis has every chance to become the next permanent CanMNT head coach as the the two above him. This is what Forge FC captain, Kyle Bekker, said about head coach, Bobby Smryniotis (source: Joshua Kloke of The Athletic):

“(Smyrniotis) absolutely isn’t a ‘rah rah’ guy,” Forge captain and former Canada men’s national team midfielder Kyle Bekker said. “He’s a man of few words, but what he says matters. You’re not going to get a bunch of fluff, which is very refreshing.”

There are a lot of accolades that Smryniotis has with Forge in Hamilton, creating a dynasty with the team winning four of the five North Star Shields/North Start Cups that were available. He also helped Forge become the first-ever team to make the Concacaf Champions League (now the Concacaf Champions Cup) by making the Round of 16 in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League edition. In addition, his experience with Sigma FC, prior to being part of the CPL, is also important. The head coach, who specializes in tactics, has helped players like Tajon Buchanan, Richie Laryea, and Cyle Larin, who would later become part of the national team. In fact, this is what Larin said about Smryniotis (Joshua Kloke of The Athletic):

“Bobby sees the game differently,” Canada forward and record scorer Larin told The Athletic via text. “In my eyes, he is the best Canadian coach.”

Also, in that same Athletic article, it was revealed that Smryniotis was a finalist for a Toronto FC head coaching job, before John Herdman became head coach, and was a candidate last year for CF Montréal, which was then taken by Hernan Losada. So, it is certainly possible that he becomes the next CanMNT head coach.

A critic might say that there is a large gap between coaching the CanMNT and CPL, and that might very well be correct. However, he will certainly be up there with the other two names mentioned above him on this list.

Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

This might be a bit of a wild card, but Tommy Wheeldon Jr. deserves to have his name heard as well. A CPL head coach for Cavalry FC, Wheeldon Jr. The Liverpool-born head coach played the latter end of his playing career with the Calgary Storm/Calgary Mustangs/Team Calgary from 2002-04, which was a professional Canadian USL A-League team. After the Mustangs folded, Wheeldon Jr. decided to remain in Calgary, starting with grassroots and then moving his way up the Calgary Foothills organization (source: Todd Saelhof of The Calgary Sun):

“I thought the best way to bring back professional football in this city was to build from the ground up,” he says.

He had many positions, including assistant technical director, to director, to then the head coach of the team in 2015. Wheeldon Jr., would then lead his team to the 2018 PDL Championship, and became the head coach of Cavalry FC straight afterwards in 2019. Wheeldon Jr. is also one of only two CPL head coaches to take his team to the Concacaf Champions Cup competition. He is also the only head coach to win two head coach of the year awards in the CPL in 2019 and 2023. This is what Cavalry FC captain, Marco Carducci said about him (source: Charloe O’Connor-Clarke, Digital Content Editor):

“Tommy is a manager that is a leader first and foremost,” Cavalry captain Marco Carducci told earlier this season. “That’s the type of leadership that I think defines this club. He’s a leader by example, he’s a big culture piece and he sets the standard. I think you see that on the sideline, you see that everywhere.”

A Cavalry FC player original, Sergio Camargo, said this about him in the same article:

“Tommy and I have built a relationship these last few years on trust and respect, and I think that’s what he gives off and that’s what he demands from all his players. It’s very easy to be loyal to someone like that and to fight every 90 minutes for someone like that.”

Wheeldon Jr. is a great head coach, but he may be overshadowed by Smryniotis, who has been more successful in the Canadian Premier League. There is also the issue with the CSA and the Canadian soccer players and if that may affect his and Smryniotis’ chances of becoming head coach with the CanMNT. He has also won the Canadian Premier League Shield for the best record in the league twice in 2019 and 2023 (the trophy for the CPL Shield for 2019 was confirmed months after the 2023 one, as indicated in the video below).

Other Candidates for the CanMNT Head Coach Position

READ MORE: Analysis: John Herdman Leaves The CanMNT For Toronto FC

There were other candidates as mentioned in Peter Galindo’s Sportsnet article. This includes Thomas Christiansen, Wilfried Nancy, and Pa-Modou Kah. Christiansen and Nancy as Galindo mentioned, have current contracts with their local teams. Modou Kah is the interesting one, as he was considered for the Colorado Rapids job. However, in this writer’s opinion, if Canada Soccer was looking for someone with CPL experience, they might look for Smryniotis or to a lesser extent, Wheeldon Jr., over Modou Kah.

READ MORE: History And Recent Success Of Canadian Soccer: On The Rise

It feels like the front-runners to become the head coach are Biello, Henry, and Smyrniotis, with Wheeldon Jr., being a dark horse. Henry is a big name, which might attract Canada Soccer, but Biello is doing his best to give himself the best chance, with the game on Saturday against Trinidad and Tobago looming. It will be interesting to see if one of these candidates become the national team head coach, or if someone else not on this list becomes the next permanent CanMNT head coach.


Note: The game against Trinidad and Tobago to try and qualify for Copa América will take place at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on March 23, 2024 at 4:00 PM ET. The game will be shown live on OneSoccer as well as Telus and FuboTV Inc.


Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying
22 March 2021 – Guadalajara, JA, MEX
Canada Soccer by Mexsport


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