Former Football Ferns coach John Herdman has been identified as the preferred candidate to become the next All Whites coach.
Newshub understands the 47-year-old has agreed terms, although contracts haven't been signed and his appointment cannot yet be considered a done deal.
Herdman would be in line to replace former coach Danny Hay, who was asked to re-apply for his job, after the defeat to Costa Rica in last year's World Cup intercontinental playoff, but chose not to pursue another term.
NZ Football has announced the All Whites will kick off their 2026 cycle with two home games against China in March.
Those matches will be overseen by interim head coach Darren Bazeley, after "the leading candidate for the permanent All Whites head coach role had to be called upon to help manage a family health issue, meaning they weren’t able to take up the position ahead of these fixtures".
While it’s unclear what factors could scupper the deal, prominent football sources described Herdman as "the clear top pick" for NZF officials, after completing a thorough recruitment process.
While he won't comment specifically on Herdman, chief executive Andrew Pragnell has told Newshub the preferred candidate has agreed terms and was "100 percent" on board to take up the role, before a personal situation put a hold on the process.
Securing the services of Herdman would be a coup. The Englishman most recently led the Canada men's team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar - the team's first appearance at the global showpiece in 36 years. While they finished bottom of their group with three defeats, two of those losses came against eventual semi-finalists Croatia and Morocco.
Herdman was widely praised for his team’s performance in qualifying for the tournament, as Canada topped the North, Central America and Caribbean confederation, ahead of traditional heavyweights Mexico and United States.
Before heading to Canada, Herdman cut his international coaching teeth in New Zealand.
After pursuing a coaching career at a young age, he led New Zealand’s U20 women's teams at World Cups in 2006 and 2010. He also coached the Football Ferns at two Women's World Cups in 2007 and 2011, before taking charge of Canada's women.
Eldest son Jay was born in Invercargill, but has represented both Canada and New Zealand at U20 level. The 18-year-old won the Golden Ball, as New Zealand claimed the Oceania U19 championship in Tahiti last year.
Herdman's decision to relocate back to New Zealand would come as a surprise, with Canada co-hosting the 2026 World Cup.