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Jesse Marsch ’96 appointed as Canada men’s soccer national team head coach

Jesse Marsch
Jesse Marsch ’96 on the touchlines during a game.
by Anna Jalalyan

The rivalry between the United States and Canada in the association football world has taken another turn.

Former Princeton midfielder and men’s soccer assistant coach Jesse Marsch ’96 was appointed as the head coach for the Canadian men’s national soccer team, as announced in a press release Monday morning by Canada Soccer. The hiring is effective immediately and the rest of Marsch’s staff will be announced in the coming weeks.

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“One of the main reasons why I took this job is because I think these players are going to benefit from the way I think about football,” Marsch told The Daily Princetonian. 

Due to contributions from the owners of three current Canadian Major League Soccer (MLS) teams — Vancouver Whitecap, CF Montreal, and Toronto FC — his official title will be the MLS Canada Men’s National Team Head Coach.

Marsch will replace interim head coach Mauro Biello, who has been at the sidelines for the Maple Leafs since October 2023 after longtime head coach John Herdman resigned in August to take a job with Toronto FC in the MLS.

Marsch last held a job as the manager of former Premier League side Leeds United before he was fired in February 2023. Since then, he has been in the running for multiple high-profile jobs, most notably the United States men’s national team opening last summer.

When asked about the transition from managing a club to a national side, Marsch emphasized the importance of taking advantage of the times they have together as a team. In a calendar year, most national teams spend just over two months together. 

“I think it just puts a real emphasis on making sure that I’m as precise as I can be, with everything we do, and taking advantage of every moment we have together,” Marsch told the ‘Prince.’

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“One tendency for national team coaches is to try to squeeze everything into the small windows that we have with them. And that can sometimes lead to overloading of information … doing more harm than good.”

Upon graduation from Princeton, where he was an NCAA All-American, Marsch played 14 seasons in MLS as a midfielder, winning multiple titles including three MLS Cups and four U.S. Open Cups. 

His coaching journey started as an assistant with the United States side that finished top of their group and made the final 16 of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. To date, his only managerial experience in Canada has been with Montréal Impact from 2012 to 2015. 

Following this, he had small stints with the Red Bull multi-club network. He started with the New York Red Bull in 2015 before getting the biggest job of his career in 2018 managing RB Leipzig in Germany’s top flight. That season, he finished third place, and the club qualified for the UEFA Champions League. Following this, he joined the sister club Red Bull Salzburg in Austria and became the first American manager to win a European top-flight league in 2019. 

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“The fun of working with a team is using all of these players’ gifts and talents and personalities, to put them into one ideology in concept of what we want to become,” Marsch told the ‘Prince’. 

After returning to RB Leipzig for a short run, they parted ways towards the end of 2021. Shortly after, Marsch took the job at Leeds United, helping the club stay in the Premier League after a heroic 2–1 win on the final match day. This was the first time since 2011 that a club escaped relegation despite being in the relegation zone before the final matchday. In the Premier League, the bottom three teams are demoted to the second division of English football, also known as the Championship. 

Now, as the 20th head coach of the Canadian side, he will be coaching the likes of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David. While this excites the American manager, Marsch is looking forward to working with some of the younger and less established players and seeing what they can bring to the table.

“I’m excited to get some of the younger, talented players like Ismaël Koné and Bombito,” Marsch noted. “I think there’s a good balance between some players playing in MLS and players playing in Europe, some older, older established players, and some younger, highly talented players.”

“I would say first is evaluating the player pool closely, and then trying to determine in this first phase that we go into which players we need to invest the most in. We’ve already been looking at, you know, games in the last month and a half and trying to evaluate all the different players,” Marsch added.

His first games in charge will be two friendlies in early June against football powerhouses the Netherlands (June 6th) and France (June 9th).

“You don’t get that many opportunities when you’re in a country like Canada to play against these kinds of opponents,” Marsch noted. “We want to start to establish a certain way of playing that I’m going to continue to develop in the team. But I think in this situation also, playing brave and experiencing playing against the best opponents helps make sure that we’re up for the challenge.”

Following this, the Canadian national team will participate in the 2024 Copa America which will be held in the United States. Marsch’s first competitive game with the Maple Leafs will be on June 20th against Lionel Messi’s Argentina side, the reigning World champions and currently ranked No. 1 by FIFA. 

“I think it’s a little too difficult for me to really map out what I think it’s gonna look like until I start to get into the team a little bit more and start to work with them and see how they’re responding,” Marsch said when asked about his expectations for the summer tournament. “I’m really excited about these challenges.”

March’s contract will run through the summer of 2026. This means that barring any major surprises, Marsch will be on the touchline during the 2026 World Cup that is set to be hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 

Tactically, Marsch’s coaching style emphasizes high-tempo attacking and aggressive pressing. With a young and athletic pool of players to choose from, Marsch is excited to bring the best out of his players. 

“I’m going to take them outside of their comfort zone in some ways and challenge them to do things at a higher tempo than maybe they have in the past. And that’s going to force them to think faster. But I think that’s the way that players develop — when you put them in environments and situations where the game is happening faster than what they're used to, and they have to adapt.”

Coaching a national team often comes with very high expectations from the passionate fanbases that surround the team. For Marsch, being able to respond and perform at a high level under the most pressure-packed environments will be central to his team’s success.

“I like to think that I’m good in pressure situations, and I’m at my best when it’s the most difficult,” Marsch said. “I want to have and coach teams that have that same identity. So that’s what we’ll have to be about from day one.”

As the team prepares for a busy summer with an outlook for the 2026 World Cup, Marsch’s message to Canadian supporters is simple.

“We need their passion, we need their support. We’re going to put a team on the pitch. It’s going to be fun to watch. It’s going to be explosive and highlight the qualities of these players.”

“Let’s put a spotlight as big as we can on our nation, on our players, on our team, for the whole nation to be proud of, and for the world to see.”

Hayk Yengibaryan is an associate Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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