Handing Jonathan Osorio the captaincy was something that just felt natural and right for Toronto FC this winter as the club look to put the worst year of their existence behind them and start regaining the trust of the fans.

For Osorio, who took the horrors of 2023 more personally than most at the club, it was an “extra special” moment and the culmination of years of putting the team first.

Related read: ‘Emotional’ Jonathan Osorio’s captaincy can be first step to redemption for Toronto FC

Osorio told FIFA.com in an interview published this week that the captaincy “means a lot, partly because I’m a local guy, but more so for the amount of years I’ve been at the club, the amount of time and work that I’ve put in, and the sacrifices I’ve made to try to always play my best and do what’s right for the club. That’s what really makes it extra special for me.”

It’s also the next step of a journey with the club which began in 2012 and the latest chapter of which started in December 2022, when he turned down the chance of a move to Europe at the age of 30 to instead sign a new three-year deal with the club.

“Each time I’ve had the opportunity to leave, the club has really shown that it values me a lot,” Osorio told FIFA.com. “As a footballer, that feeling of being valued is such a big thing, and to feel this way at my hometown club is something I don’t take for granted.

“It’s always been Toronto for me. When it came down to it, it always felt that this club and this city was my best option, and that there were opportunities here to challenge myself in different ways.”

The year ahead is not only huge for Osorio and TFC in their first full campaign under John Herdman but also for Toronto and Canada as a whole.

The midfielder’s chat with FIFA came hot on the heels of the news that Canada would be hosting 13 games in the 2026 World Cup, with Toronto getting six of those.

Related read: The FIFA World Cup is coming to Toronto in 2026. Now what?

Osorio, who will be 34 years old by the time the 2026 World Cup gets underway, admitted he feels its important that TFC find a higher level this season and beyond to help the city get better set up for the hoopla of a World Cup coming to town.

“It’s so exciting that the World Cup is coming not just to our city, but to our stadium,” added Osorio. “For Canada as a whole, it’s just a wonderful opportunity – maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, yeah, it’s a huge motivation for us all, and I do think it’s important for Toronto FC to be competitive going into the World Cup because that will help a lot with all the build-up in the city. That’s my goal.

“I want to bring the club back to being a contender in this league, and also to personally make sure I’m in the mix and making myself a strong contender to be picked to play in this home World Cup… I know how lucky I would feel to be part of an occasion like that in Toronto…”

Osorio and TFC head to Santa Barbara, California this week for the second phase of their preseason camp ahead of their MLS season opener in Cincinnati on February 25.