Canada has been named the “Most Improved Side” for 2021 after jumping 32 places to No. 40 in the FIFA rankings over the course of the year.
The Canadian men were rewarded for gaining 130.32 points in FIFA’s ranking system over the previous 12 months, thanks to victories in World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup semifinals.
In the December rankings released Thursday, Canada remains at No. 40, its highest-ever position. The team of John Herdman had climbed eight places in the November rankings.
In December 1996, the Canadian men also reached No. 40. FIFA revamped its rating formula in 2018, after starting the rankings in 1992.
Canada began the year ranked 72nd, but has steadily risen thanks to a 13-2-4 record that has seen Herdman’s team win the CONCACAF final round of World Cup qualifying, which includes North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean.
At the Gold Cup, Canada’s only losses were to the United States and Mexico. This season, the Canadians have outscored their opponents 55-11.
When Herdman took over as coach in January 2018, Canada was ranked 94th, sandwiched between Gabon and the Faroe Islands. In the FIFA rankings at the time, the Canadian men were ranked 10th among CONCACAF countries, ahead of Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama, Haiti, Honduras, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The football world had a lot to catch up on after the pandemic hit the schedule hard in 2020, with only 352 full internationals played, the fewest since 1987 (323 matches). According to FIFA, a total of 1,116 matches were played this year, which is a new high.
The top ten remains the same.
For the fourth year in a row, Belgium takes the top spot, just 2.1 points ahead of Brazil. France is third, with England, Argentina, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, and the Netherlands following closely behind.
Algeria, the winner of the Arab Cup, has risen three places to No. 29 in the new rankings.
At the end of January, the team will return to the pitch.
Since the November list was released, 58 matches have been played. Canada was inactive for the month, but will play World Cup qualifiers against Honduras, the United States, and El Salvador in the January-February international window.
Over the course of the year, European champion Italy (plus-115.77 points), Copa America winner Argentina (plus-108.51 points), and Gold Cup champion Americans (plus-103.51 points) all increased their point totals.
Canada jumped 20 places in the rankings to No. 73 in February 2002, thanks to a third-place finish at the Gold Cup. It was Canada’s biggest leap up the world soccer rankings since winning the Gold Cup in 2000, when it climbed 24 places to 61st overall.
Canada advanced to the Gold Cup semifinals in June 2007, climbing 38 places from No. 94 to No. 56. The following month, it rose to No. 52.
In August and October of 2014, Canada received its lowest-ever ranking of 122nd.
FIFA has the Canadian women’s team ranked sixth in the world, after winning gold at the recent Tokyo Olympics.