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  • Quick hit: Canada's road to the 2018 World Cup


    I am not aware of any previous incidents involving Palomo and gross journalistic inaccuracy, but it's always important to remember that until we receive official confirmation this remains one guy's word. With that in mind, here’s a good summary of the report it in English.

    Rather than relying on a group stage in which only the winners advance to the semifinal round (the one right ahead of the Hex; the one Canada keeps failing at), Concacaf nations will advance through three home-and-away knockout rounds to get to the semi-final group stage. The top six ranked nations in Concacaf receive a bye directly to the semifinal round. The surprising catch here is that Concacaf intends to use the August Fifa rankings, which don’t take into account matches played at the recently competed Copa Centroamericana.

    That fact has elicited howls of protest, literally in some cases, especially from commentators on ESPN Deportes popular drive-time radio show Jorge Ramos y su Banda last Wednesday. It’s easy to see why fans of certain Central American nations would be bitter in regards to that seemingly arbitrary decision. The August rankings have Trinidad and Tobago sitting in sixth place, with Haiti in eighth. That means the Trinidadians would avoid the initial knockout games altogether, while Haiti would only play in one round of them. The guys on Jorge Ramos' show were (predictably) eager to point out that Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb hails from the Cayman Islands, which is a member of the Caribbean Football Union. In terms of really getting the jam, look no further than Guatemala. Los Chapines shot up to sixth in the September ratings from 15th in August.

    What does it mean for Canada?

    Canada sits ninth in the August rankings, meaning Les Rouges would enter the second round of home-and-aways played next June on Fifa dates, which won't conflict with July's Gold Cup. (There is a lengthy thread on the Voyageurs supporters' group forum where you can pore over incredibly detailed research on how Canada's Fifa spot is calculated. Suffice to say, Canada dips to 15th in the Sept. ranking and is headed further down.) If Concacaf goes with August rankings, Canada would most likely face opponents such as Antigua and Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua or St Kitts and Nevis in this second round. Of course, it all depends on how the draw is structured and whether it is somehow seeded. The following home-and-away, slated for September 2015, could (big emphasis on could) entail a far trickier opponent. We're talking El Salvador or Guatemala here. And as someone who idles away a great deal of time following Central American soccer, that terrifies me.

    Either way, next summer is shaping up to be a swell month for Canadian soccer fans, what with a spot on the Copa America on the line in the Gold Cup and the possible advent of sudden-death World Cup qualifying.

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