John Herdman named Toronto FC head coach

John Herdman

Toronto FC have their new head coach, announcing Monday that John Herdman will formally take over October 1 after departing his current post as Canada men's national team head coach.

Herdman will be charged with steering TFC beyond their tumultuous 2023 campaign, where they're currently last in the Eastern Conference table with eight games to go (19 points; 3W-13L-10D record). Those struggles led to the departure of former head coach Bob Bradley in late June, with Terry Dunfield leading the club on an interim basis.

Herdman initially took over the CanMNT in 2018 and was set to lead them into the 2026 World Cup on home soil. Now, he's instead entered the MLS arena north of the border.

"I am keen to start this new opportunity with Toronto FC," Herdman, 48, said in a release. "Personally, it’s the right time for me to step into a new challenge in my career, and the structure of a club environment is a context I’ve aspired to operate in. Having access to connect and collaborate with the staff and players daily allows for a different depth of development and connection, both on and off the pitch.

"To continue my coaching journey in a Canadian city that I know well, playing at BMO Field – a stadium where I’ve experienced some of my favorite sporting moments, with incredible fans, is quite amazing. I want to thank president Bill Manning and MLSE for trusting me with this project. I am motivated to work with this team and an organization of this caliber."

Herdman's resumé

This will be Herdman's first head-coach role at the club level after cutting his teeth in the international game for both women's and men's programs. He previously led New Zealand's women's national team (2006-11) before assuming the same role for Canada's women's national team (2011-18) – laying the groundwork for a historic 2022 World Cup cycle in charge of Les Rouges.

Herdman oversaw a period of unprecedented success with the CanMNT (2018-23), helping them qualify for their first World Cup since 1986 and emerge as a legitimate force in Concacaf. Canada finished first in the region's qualifying before getting eliminated at the World Cup in the group stage.

The Englishman's work building Canada to international relevance would seem to lend itself to taking over Toronto during the club's current inflection point, which will require a similar rebuilding process.

"There’s work to be done, and we recognize that transformational change takes time," Herdman said. "We understand what it will take to make a difference, and I am committed to getting this city and club where it belongs."

Toronto FC crossroads

Toronto are looking to recapture a dominant period (2016-19) from last decade when they became an Eastern Conference power under now-LA Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney to the tune of three MLS Cup final appearances and a domestic treble in 2017 (Canadian Championship). Now, they're on track to miss the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for a third year running.

TFC appear due for another offseason of roster change, with Herdman and new general manager Jason Hernandez at the reins after Bradley held a dual role (manager/sporting director). Questions especially center around Italian national team stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, who both joined in the summer of 2022 as high-priced Designated Players and have struggled to deliver amid injuries and reported off-field drama.

Despite recent on-field struggles, club ownership has shown a willingness to be big spenders in the global transfer market, meaning Herdman should have ample resources to shape Toronto in his vision. In the meantime, with the aforementioned October 1 start date, Herdman could oversee the Reds' final three games before turning the page to 2024.