Canada to face U.S. Virgin Islands in Florida on Sept. 9


Team Canada's David Junior Hoilett (centre) breaks for open field between Team Jamaica's Alvas Powell (left) and Devon Williams during the second half of their international friendly on Sept. 2, 2017. (Jon Blacker/CP)

TORONTO — Canada will open its CONCACAF Nations qualifying play in Bradenton, Fla., because of a lack of a suitable venue in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The two teams will meet Sept. 9 at the IMG Academy.

After the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is ranked 199th in the world, No. 79 Canada will host No. 177 Dominica on Oct. 16 in Toronto. Canada will then play at No. 135 St. Kitts & Nevis on Nov. 18 and host French Guiana on March 26.

No venue has been announced yet for the home game against French Guiana, which is unranked because it is not a FIFA member.

The qualifying round serves as an appetizer for the 2019 debut of the competition showcasing teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Eventually the participating CONCACAF countries will be divided into three tiers with promotion and relegation.

The new competition will crown the Nations League champion and serve as qualifying for the newly expanded 16-team Gold Cup. It is also expected to influence seeding in future World Cup qualifying.

Europe has already announced similar plans for the UEFA Nations League.

The tournaments are seen as a way to move away from meaningless friendly matches and to ensure all confederation members get meaningful games.

Canada is no stranger to rescheduling official matches because of a lack of a suitable stadium in its opponent’s home country. In 2004, both games in a World Cup qualifying series against Belize were held in Kingston, Ont., because of the facilities back in Belize.

The Canadian men won 8-0 on aggregate.

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