Canadian men drawn with rival Americans in Group B at 2021 Gold Cup

U.S. defender Sergino Dest, left, moves to get position on Canada midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) during the second half of a CONCACAF Nations League soccer match. (John Raoux/CP)

Canada will renew soccer hostilities with the U.S. at the 2021 Gold Cup in a group that also features Martinique and a preliminary-round qualifier.

Canada, ranked 73rd in the world by FIFA compared to No. 23 for the Americans, defeated the U.S. 2-0 last October in CONCACAF Nations League play. The victory at Toronto’s BMO Field ended a 34-year, 17-match winless run for the Canadian men against their North American rivals.

The U.S. avenged that loss a month later in Orlando, winning 4-1.

Canada is 2-1-2 against Martinique, which is unranked because it is not a member of FIFA.

The North American rivals were placed in Group B at the tournament draw held Monday evening in Miami.

The Gold Cup, which serves as the championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean, will feature 16 teams including 2022 World Cup host Qatar as a guest entry.

The tournament, which will run July 10 through Aug. 1 in 2021 with venues to be announced, is instituting a 12-team preliminary round vying for the final three spots in the 16-country group stage.

The preliminary round replaces the Road to Gold Cup Qualifiers, which were slated to be played in the pandemic-halted March and June FIFA match windows this year.

Canada had already booked its berth in the group stage by virtue of its performance in the CONCACAF Nations League.

Group A consists of Mexico, El Salvador, Curacao and a preliminary-round winner. Group C is made up of Costa Rica, Jamaica, Suriname and a preliminary-round winner while Group D features Honduras, Panama, Grenada and Qatar.

Eleventh-ranked Mexico, the U.S., No. 46 Costa Rica and No. 62 Honduras were pre-seeded in Groups A to D, respectively.

Canada was in Pot 2 along with No. 48 Jamaica, No. 69 El Salvador and No. 81 Panama.

Pot 3 consisted of Martinique, No. 80 Curacao, No. 141 Suriname and No. 159 Grenada while Pot 4 featured the three preliminary-round survivors and Qatar.

The draw pots were based on the CONCACAF rankings, as opposed to FIFA’s ratings, as of August 2020 when Canada was ranked sixth in the confederation.

CONCACAF called it the first draw for the tournament. Previous editions had seen the governing body choose the makeup of the groups.

The draw was conducted by CONCACAF director of competitions Carlos Fernandez, former Grenada international Jason Roberts, now CONCACAF’s director of development, and former Honduras international Wilson Palacios.

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, a Vancouver native, took part remotely citing the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“It promises to be a fantastic tournament,” he said.

Canada exited in the quarter-finals of the 2019 tournament, blowing a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss to Haiti. The Canadians finished second in their preliminary pool, blanking Martinique 4-0 and Cuba 7-0 around a 3-1 loss to Mexico.

With six goals, Canadian Jonathan David won the Golden Boot Award as the tournament’s top scorer and was named to the competition’s all-star team.

Mexico defeated the U.S. 1-0 in the final at Chicago’s Soldier Field for its eighth Gold Cup championship. The U.S. has won six times. Canada, in 2000, is the only other tournament winner.

The new preliminary round at the 2021 tournament will be played as a direct-elimination format, from July 2 to 6 in a centralized location in the U.S.

The first round will see Haiti versus Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guatemala versus Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago versus Montserrat, Cuba versus French Guiana, Guadeloupe versus the Bahamas, and Bermuda versus Barbados.

The six winners will then play one more direct elimination round. The three survivors will join Qatar in rounding out the final tournament field of 16.

Currently ranked 55th in the world, Qatar will be the second Asian Football Confederation team to compete as a guest in the Gold Cup. South Korea participated in 2000, when Canada won the event, and 2002.

Qatar, which failed to get out of the first round of the 2019 Copa America in Brazil with an 0-2-1 record, will also be a guest team in the 2023 Gold Cup.

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