Canada's bid to make 2024 Copa America as guest team will involve just one opponent
Canada will need to dispatch just one opponent to qualify for the 2024 Copa America as one of CONCACAF's six guest teams.
Under guidelines released Tuesday by CONCACAF, the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica and Canada — as the top four teams in the region according to the March 31 CONCACAF rankings — will get byes to the League A quarterfinals of the 2023-24 CONCACAF Nations League.
The four quarterfinal winners will join Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela in the Copa America field.
The two remaining CONCACAF berths in the 16-team Copa America will be filled via a playoff involving the four League A losing quarterfinalists in March 2024 in a centralized venue.
The 2023-24 and 2024-25 Nations League competitions serve as qualifying tournaments for the 2024 Copa America and 2025 Gold Cup, respectively.
The Canadian men, ranked No. 47 in the world by FIFA, still have work to do in their current Nations League campaign, with a semifinal against No. 58 Panama on June 15 in Las Vegas. The winner will face either the 13th-ranked U.S. or No. 15 Mexico in the June 18 final at Allegiant Stadium for the tournament title and a prize of some US$1 million.
Canada advanced to the final four after topping League A's Group C above Honduras and Curaçao.
The CONCACAF Nations League will continue to be played in a three-league format (A, B, and C) with 41 teams assigned to one of the three leagues according to their performance in the preceding competition.
The May 16 draw in Miami for the 2023-24 Nations League will divide teams assigned to Leagues A, B, and C into groups.
League A has been expanded to 16 teams, up from 12, with the new quarterfinal round added.
The 12 lower-ranked teams in League A will be split into two groups of six teams with each team playing four games, two at home and two away. After group play, the top two teams in each pool will join the four top-ranked League A countries in the quarterfinals.
The League A quarterfinal round will be a home-and-away format, with the four aggregate-score winners advancing to the CONCACAF Nations League finals — and the 2024 Copa America.
The 2023-24 Nations League group stage will be played during FIFA match windows in September, October, and November 2023. The League A quarterfinals will be played in November 2023 with the finals set for March 2024 as a yet-to-be -announced venue
With Canada skipping group play, coach John Herdman will be able to schedule friendlies in the September and October windows.
The format for League B will be unchanged with 16 teams divided into four groups with each side playing the others in its group home and away.
League C will consists of nine teams divided into three groups and playing each county in their pool home and away.
The fifth- and sixth-place finishers in each of the League A groups will be relegated to League B with the four League B group winners earning promotion.
The fourth-placed teams in the League B groups will go down, with the three League C group winners and the best second-place finisher promoted to League B.
2023-24 CONCACAF Nations League Leagues (x- denotes promoted teams)
League A (16 teams): Canada, Costa Rica, x-Cuba, Curaçao, El Salvador, Grenada, x-Guatemala, x-Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, x-Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname, and the United States.
League B (16 teams): Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Montserrat, x-Puerto Rico, x-Saint Kitts and Nevis, x-Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, x-Sint Maarten, and Trinidad and Tobago.
League C (9 teams): Anguilla, Aruba, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Saint Martin, Turks and Caicos Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press