Qualifying for a World Cup was never the end goal. The Canadian men’s national team want to be indisputably the best team in CONCACAF, not just now but indefinitely.

That was the core message from head coach John Herdman when he addressed Canadian media on Monday at BMO Field.

“It’s all on the line for us, winner takes all,” said Herdman of the Honduras clash. “There’s no other thought process than winning this match tomorrow.”

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As he had done after announcing his squad for the 2-0 win over Curaçao, Herdman emphasized that the bar has been raised by CanMNT’s success in 2021-22. Gone are the days when Canada were competing to be alongside the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica as the best in the confederation.

Now, with 2023 Gold Cup participation secured with the Curaçao victory, Herdman’s solitary short-term focus is getting a win over Honduras that would secure a berth in the CONCACAF Nations League final four.

“We’re top four in CONCACAF in terms of quality,” he continued. “We should win this game. It’s an expectation. Winning this game puts us with a chance of beating the US, Mexico, Jamaica, whoever we face, to lift our first Nations League trophy and be pioneers again.

“It’s the same path, the same mindset – what can we be first at? Kings of CONCACAF is the overarching [goal]… We want to win something this year. That’s the statement we’re going to be stepping behind… To be the best team is our mission.”

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio joined Herdman for the briefing at his home stadium.

Asked what CanMNT learned from their Qatar experience, the 30-year-old echoed his manager’s message that standards have been raised.

“Analyzing the games, we learned that we can compete with the best, and even with the players that we have now…” Osorio said. “Compared to these tier-one teams with players playing at the very highest levels, we still competed.”

Meanwhile, as they will continue to be at every press conference for the foreseeable future, the highly publicized off-field dealings with Canada Soccer were an unavoidable topic of discussion.

An emotional Herdman took a long pause being asked about Nick Bontis’ referring to Christine Sinclair’s past calls for equality as “bitching.”

“Frustrated, just frustrated,” Herdman answered after several seconds of silence. There was a pregnant pause after those comments, too, suggesting there was more to be said that remained internal.

The Englishman, the former head coach of the Canadian women’s national team, went on to discuss the difficulty of continuing to lead CanMNT amid the Canada Soccer debacle.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “Given everything that everyone has put into the program over the last 10, 15, 20 years. Everyone’s worked really hard to get to this moment. It should be different.”

Osorio added that “the staff, everybody, players put in a lot of sacrifices and work to get the program to where it is now.”

“It’s hard with all the things that are happening,” he continued. “As players, we try to deal with it in one professional way.”

Finally, Herdman was asked about the reports earlier this winter – quickly dispelled by Canada Soccer – that he was in line to leave the Canada Soccer program and take over as head coach of New Zealand.

Herdman admitted that after the World Cup, he “looked at a few” opportunities but ultimately decided that Canada was where he wished to remain.

“We had a lot of opportunities to look at, as you do when you’ve been in a country for 11 years, 12 years and you’ve just completed a pretty gruelling four-year cycle. And as your agents do, they’ll offer a lot of advice and opportunities there. I looked at quite a few to see where I wanted my future to be for the next four years. But I was very clear that this is where I need to be and want to be.”

CanMNT kick off against Honduras on Tuesday night at BMO Field at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.