Canadian trio Victor Loturi, William Akio, and Ben Paton have been urged by their Ross County manager Malky Mackay to push hard for inclusion in the Canadian men’s national team in 2023.

Brothers Loturi and Akio joined Paton at the Scottish Premiership club in summer 2022 having both previously played in the Canadian Premier League.

Mackay, a former Scotland international, is hopeful that they can show the form that puts them in contention – both for his club’s sake and for the players’ own personal pride and achievement.

“We have three Canadians here and their next step is to break into that Canada squad,” Mackay said, per the Press and Journal. “I’ve talked to them all about how desperately they should want to become international footballers.

“As a club manager, it can be a headache, as it was for me when I was in England. Players go away to represent their countries and how do they come back – fit or injured? Sometimes they are called away outside of the international windows, missing games. The African games are in January and that has caused clubs problems before.

“But, underneath it all, it is the biggest accolade you can gain. I would never stop anyone going away to play for their country because, in my own experience, it was just the best thing.”

While Loturi and Paton are eligible to be called up by John Herdman, Akio may actually be cap-tied as he has appeared in two African Cup of Nations qualifiers for South Sudan.

There are few, if any, members of CanMNT – particularly of the group who travelled to Qatar and got to witness the passionate Canadian fans in their thousands and the emotion of O Canada being sung on the biggest stage – who would argue with Mackay’s assessment that representing Les Rouges is “the biggest accolade” for a Canadian footballer.

It would surely represent the loftiest current goal for Loturi and Paton.

Loturi, 21, was born in Calgary and played for local club Calgary Northside as a youngster before progressing to Calgary Foothills and ultimately becoming a key player for Cavalry FC in the CPL and being touted as one of the league’s brightest young prospects. He joined Ross County in a reported six-figure transfer in the summer. His elder brother, Akio, was born in Kenya but grew up in Calgary after the family moved there when he was young. He, too, spent time with the Foothills before signing for Valour FC.

Meanwhile, Kitchener-born Paton, a former prospect with Blackburn Rovers in England, joined Ross Country in summer 2021. He has previously played twice for Canada’s Under-17 side.

With Canada’s global profile raised following their 2022 World Cup exploits in Qatar and the promise of Gold Cup and potential Copa America participation to come before Canada co-hosts the 2026 World Cup, the potential of representing Canada at senior level is more attractive than ever.