Canada coach Jesse Marsch: ‘Will MLS owners dictate selection? Come on man!’

YOUUntil recently, Jesse Marsch had plenty of time. The clock was not creaking, but ticking. Not now. He has landed in another country, this time in Spain, checked into another hotel room and needs to freshen up for dinner.

That it is Cyle Larin, the Real Mallorca forward and Canada’s record goalscorer, who will join him for the meal hints at why time has become a precious commodity in Marsch’s world.

Last week the 50-year-old American turned 50 became the newest head coach of the Canadian men’s national team, a nine-month search that ended with an appointment that was almost stunning. Not because Marsch isn’t a bull’s-eye, but the opposite: the former Leeds and Leipzig manager was overqualified for the role given the financial parameters in which Canada Soccer operated.

That was until a new CEO found a unique solution (more on that soon). And so the man who many hoped would lead the host nation to the 2026 World Cup will indeed do just that. Just not the hosts they had thought of.

“It was a crazy few days,” Marsch told The Guardian. “I try to travel to see the players, try to go here, there and everywhere and in between I have to sort out a lot of logistics. So it was a bit crazy, but yes, I arrived in Mallorca. It felt great, just like I thought.”

Before having dinner with Larin, he shaves time to delve into some implications and observations surrounding Monday’s announcement. In the blink of an eye, Marsch became the most high-profile signing in Canadian soccer history and not a moment too soon with the country’s Copa America a month away, the World Cup in two years and so much to do. But in some hearts and minds south of the border, he is also something of a traitor.

Marsch is as worldly as coaches can be. Stints in Canada, the US, Austria, Germany and Yorkshire are just part of that. He has visited 80 countries, calls Tuscany home and all three of his children study abroad. Perhaps those who responded to the American takeover of Canada with jokes about loyalty or betrayal need a few more stamps in their passports?

“Maybe, maybe,” says Marsch, smiling. “But you know, US Soccer had the opportunity to hire me. They have no one to look to but themselves, especially if that’s the question they’re asking. Ultimately, I have the freedom in my life to do what is best for me and myself.”

When Gregg Berhalter’s contract as USMNT coach expired after Qatar 2022, Marsch had been sacked by Leeds and was immediately seen by many as an exciting alternative. Instead, after off-field chaos and delays, US Soccer went back to Berhalter. During the Nations League in March, Marsch worked as a TV analyst and the pair exchanged shots about Berhalter’s dealings with Gio Reyna. In a final appearance on his CBS podcast on Thursday, Marsch claimed he was “not treated very well” from US Soccer during the manager hunt without further explanation. There are layers to all of this.

“I said this when Gregg made his comment about Gio: I wanted the US to do well. I still do that,” says Marsch, an American assistant to Bob Bradley during the 2010 World Cup. “That is part of my football training. However, I think I can take a lot of lessons from that and apply that to what we do in Canada. For me it has nothing to do with the US. It’s about preparing for it [the 2026 World Cup, which Canada will co-host with the US and Mexico] to be the best possible team so that we can really create great success.”

The federation north of the border hasn’t exactly been running a smooth ship either. Canada football is haunted by chaosThe success on the field of both the women’s and men’s teams is in stark contrast to the unrest outside of it. In March, new Golf Canada CEO Kevin Blue arrived with no football background and a hole at the top of the organizational chart after Englishman John Herdman, who had lifted the men to a first World Cup appearance in 36 years, walked out. With a strong background in sports philanthropy from his time in college sports, Blue got creative.

Last week’s press release revealed that Marsch would “formally take the title of the MLS Canada Men’s National Team Head Coach,” named after the owners of the country’s MLS clubs in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. had opened their wallets to cover a salary Canada Soccer, which is operating with a $4 million deficit this year, would not have been able to afford otherwise. Reports say the three clubs are bringing in more than $1.5 million. The arrangement is new and potentially difficult. Marsch has a different opinion.

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“I had someone ask if the three MLS owners are coming together [to fund the salary] You mean they’re going to dictate roster selection? I was like, ‘Come on man! Don’t be foolish.’ No coach would take a position with those kinds of provisions,” said Marsch, who had also spoken with South Korea. “I think it actually shows that there is unity behind my appointment and the fact that people are coming in [Canada] who are in a leadership position were really motivated to make this happen, it motivated me.

“[Kevin Blue] has been adamant and proactive about the fact that we need to raise money, we need to engage the people in the community. Basically, I went to him and said, “Listen, this is what I think it’s going to take to get this done.” Within two days he called me back and said, ‘We’re here!’ And I was like, ‘Good job, my man.’ But that is a reflection of his professionalism and his ability to execute.”

Replacing Herdman could be a challenge for some. Still, Marsch, who has helped shape the careers of players like Erling Haaland, Dominik Szoboszlai and Tyler Adams, has experience replacing big names. He took over Leipzig after Julian Nagelsmann and Leeds after Marcelo Bielsa.

“I am very aware that I have followed legendary figures. And I would record [Herdman] in it,” he says. “I’ve tried to really keep my finger on the pulse of what things we need to keep and how we evolve. That’s always been the process. I don’t know if I looked at it that way because [my predecessors] were legendary. That’s just natural. I try to be quite malleable – I learn about cultures and people, but also stay true to myself. That will be important for Canada here. We must ensure that this team reflects the entire country in a way that we are all proud of in 2026.”

Marsch took charge after a week in which Alphonso Davies scored perhaps the greatest club goal in Canadian historyTajon Buchanan became the first Canadian to score in Serie A and Jonathan David fired Lille towards the Champions League. He wants the country to ‘dream big’, but faces a trial by fire. There will be friendly matches against the Netherlands and France at the beginning of June, before the Copa America opener in Atlanta against Lionel Messi and Argentina. Tough group matches against Peru and Chile await. He insists he “wouldn’t have it any other way”.

“The challenge from the first part will be that the level of the opponents will be so high that we have to be very sharp in everything we do,” says Marsch. “I need to phase the team into what I want them to become and introduce the key topics to start our development process. It will be a challenge, but I am excited.”