By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on December 11, 2023.
Canada has been drawn with Costa Rica, Paraguay and either El Salvador or Guatemala in next year’s inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup.
In drawing Paraguay, the Olympic champion Canadian women got the lowest-ranked of the four South American guest teams in the draw. Costa Rica was the second-ranked side in its pot (between Mexico and Panama).
Canada is currently ranked 10th in the world while Costa Rica is No. 43, Paraguay No. 49, Guatemala No. 83 and El Salvador No. 115.
Canada has never met Paraguay before. Paraguay finished fourth in the 2022 Women’s Copa America, beaten 2-0 by Brazil in the semifinal and 2-1 by Argentina in the third-place match.
The Canadian women have won all 15 previous meetings with Costa Rica, with a combined 48-6 edge in goals.
Canada has won all three previous meeting with Guatemala, outscoring the Central Americans by a combined 26-0. The Canadian women have never faced El Salvador at the senior level.
The tournament is scheduled to run from Feb. 17 to March 10 in Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego and Carson, Calif.
Play starts Feb. 17 with a preliminary round at Dignity Health Sports Park with No. 52 Haiti facing No. 103 Puerto Rico, No. 85 Guyana meeting the No. 106 Dominican Republic and Guatemala taking on El Salvador.
The three winners advance to the main field’s group stage for round-robin play Feb. 20-28.
The third-ranked U.S., No. 9 Brazil and Canada were seeded – and kept apart in the group phase – as the highest-ranked teams in the tournament.
Canada will be based out of Houston to start with Group C games Feb. 22, 25 and 28. The Canadian men played two games at the same venue in July at the Gold Cup.
The U.S. will play in Group A in Carson, Calif., with Brazil in Group B in San Diego.
Group A also features No. 31 Argentina, No. 36 Mexico and either Guyana and the Dominican Republic, while Group B also includes No. 22 Colombia, No. 55 Panama and either Haiti or Puerto Rico
The group winners, runners-ups and the two best third-place finishers will advance to the tournament’s quarterfinals.
The Americans qualified by edging Canada 1-0 in the final of the CONCACAF W Championship in July 2022 in Mexico. Canada secured its spot by defeating Jamaica 4-1 on aggregate in September’s Olympic qualifying playoff.
Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay are the four top teams from last year’s Women’s Copa America. Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama qualified for the tournament’s main draw by winning their League A groups in Road to W Gold Cup play between September and October.
Matches will be played at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles and Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., as well as Houston’s Shell Energy Stadium and San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium, which will host the final.
The knockout stage will start with the quarterfinals at Los Angeles’ BMO Stadium on March 2 and 3, followed by the semifinals and final at Snapdragon Stadium on March 6 and 10, respectively.
CONCACAF covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The men’s CONCACAF Gold Cup has been held since 1991 with Canada winning in 2000.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2023.