Canada’s path to "the Hex" will pass through Toronto.
The Canadian Soccer Association announced Thursday night that all of the national team’s home games in the third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying will take place at Toronto’s BMO Field.
The CSA also revealed that Canada will play the United States in an international friendly on June 3 at BMO Field, home of Major League Soccer club Toronto FC.
Canada’s schedule in the next round of World Cup qualifying sees the Reds visit Cuba (June 8), Panama (Sept. 11) and Honduras (Oct. 16). The Canadians then host Honduras on June 12, Panama on Sept. 7, and Cuba on Oct. 12.
The top two teams in the round-robin group will advance to the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying known as "the Hex": a six-team group where the three best nations automatically qualify for the World Cup.
The fourth-place country in "the Hex" will play the top team from the Oceania region in a two-game, home-and-away playoff with the winner claiming a World Cup berth.
The decision to play all of Canada’s third-round home matches in Toronto was made by national team coach Stephen Hart.
Thursday’s announcement likely won’t sit well with soccer fans in Vancouver and Montreal, home of the MLS’s two other Canadian franchises, especially after Toronto staged all three of Canada’s home games in the World Cup qualifiers in 2011.
One of the issues working against BC Place, where the Whitecaps play, is that it features an artificial surface, and Hart has long said he wants to play Canada’s home games on natural grass.
Montreal’s Saputo Stadium, home to the Impact, has a grass field. Although the stadium is currently going under renovation, it’s expected to be ready for the Impact to move into on June 16.
The next World Cup will be staged in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, 2014.
Hart’s Canadian side played three friendlies last year: a 1-0 loss to Greece (Feb. 9), a 1-0 win over Belarus (March 9), and a 2-2 draw with Ecuador in Toronto (June 1). Canada will play Armenia in an international friendly on Feb. 29 in Cyprus, its first match of 2012.
Canada’s only previous World Cup appearance came in 1986 in Mexico where it bowed out in the first round after suffering three shutout losses.
The CSA also announced Thursday that the women’s team, who last week qualified for the London Olympics, will defend its title at the Cyprus Cup tournament from Feb. 20 to March 6.