Canada Soccer kicks off Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying in Guadalajara

Canada is one of eight nations competing in Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying

Building on the positive momentum of Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team Program, Canada will challenge their rivals for one of two Concacaf spots up for grabs to this summer’s Olympic Games. Canada, one of eight nations competing in Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying, will look to get off to a start strong start against El Salvador with a plan to progress across the three group matches in Guadalajara, Mexico from 19-25 March 2021.

“We have worked hard to build rhythm and fluidity with the plan to progress in the group stage in Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying,” said Mauro Biello, Canada Soccer’s Men’s Olympic National Team Head Coach. “It is important that we grow throughout the competition and we have already started that with our pre-tournament camp in Guadalajara. From now, it’s all about gaining momentum through the group stage and being sharp all the way through the competition.”

In the group phase, Canada will face El Salvador on 19 March (16.00 local / 18.00 ET / 15.00 PT), Haiti on 22 March (16.00 local / 18.00 ET / 15.00 PT), and Honduras on 25 March (19.30 local / 21.30 ET / 18.30 PT). Every Canada match at the tournament will be broadcast live on OneSoccer with extended coverage throughout the tournament on Canada Soccer’s digital channels including Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter featuring the social media hashtags #canm23 and #CMOQ.

Canada’s squad will prepare for the competition with an opportunity to become the first Canadian youth team to ever qualify for an Olympic Games. Only players born 1997 or later are eligible for the qualifying tournament, whereas the Olympic Games may feature up to three overage players. Unlike previous qualifying campaigns, nations may only feature 17 outfield players (instead of 18) and three goalkeepers.

Both Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying and the Olympic Games were originally scheduled for 2020, but postponed because of the global Covid-19 pandemic. As such, both Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying and the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers featuring Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team will be played at the same time in March 2021.

Through an aligned Men’s National Team Program, Canada’s 20-player squad will feature 10 players with Men’s National Team experience, including recent Canadian Youth International Players of the Year Derek Cornelius (2018) and Tajon Buchanan (2020) as well as former Canadian U-20 Player of the Year Ballou Tabla (2016).

Diyaeddine Abzi and Mohamed Farsi have been added to the Canada squad ahead of the opening match with both Thomas Meilleur-Giguère and Kris Twardek unavailable to the tournament for medical reasons. Both Abzi and Farsi have been training with the Canada squad since the start of the pre-tournament camp in Guadalajara.

Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying tournament is an important next step for Canada’s young players on their journey to the Men’s National Team. The competition provides players with a chance to gain valuable international experience as part of their progress to the Men’s National Team. As an all-in-one qualifying campaign with both a pre-camp and a match that falls just outside the FIFA window, several players were not eligible for the official competition because they would not be released by their professional clubs. Nations are not allowed to replace players once the competition begins, with the exception of injured players who can be replaced before the opening match.

Unlike the last Concacaf tournament in 2015, only two (not three) nations advance beyond the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, so the Concacaf Semi-finals on 28 March will be Canada’s one-and-only opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games. Canada have reached the Concacaf Semifinals in each of the last three cycles (2008, 2012, 2015), but have not qualified for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament since Los Angeles 1984 when they reached the Quarterfinals (which at the time featured the full “A” team). That same 1984 Canadian team qualified for the FIFA World Cup just a year later for Mexico 1986.

“This is a great opportunity for Canada and the Men’s National Team Program to have this chance to qualify for the Olympic Games through Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying,” said Mauro Biello, Canada Soccer’s Men’s Olympic National Team Coach. “We are in a competitive group ahead of a difficult knockout stage, but we have a chance to do something special with this group of young players.”

CANADA’S GROUP OPPONENTS:
Canada have faced their three group opponents in previous editions of Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying, although they have not faced El Salvador since 2012 when Canada  drew them 0:0 in the opening match of the group phase (both Canada and El Salvador escaped the group phase that year). While Haiti have yet to reach the Semi-final of this competition, Honduras are the only nation to reach the Concacaf Semi-final stage in five consecutive editions since 2000. Honduras were also Concacaf champions in 2008.

At the last two Concacaf U-20 tournaments in 2017 (featuring 1997-born players) and 2018 (featuring 1999-born players), Honduras posted a 9-2-2 record, El Salvador posted a 5-0-6 record, and Haiti posted a 4-0-3 record. Honduras were U-20 runners up in 2017.

CONCACAF GROUP A:
In the other group, familiar powers Costa Rica, USA and host Mexico have all qualified for the Olympic Games with their youth teams in the past 20 years, with Mexico the Olympic champions just two cycles ago in 2012. Dominican Republic are newcomers to the final eight, but ahead of the tournament they were joint leaders with the most players attached to clubs in Europe (both Dominic Republic and Haiti feature eight players from European clubs).

At the last two Concacaf U-20 tournaments in 2017 and 2018, USA posted a 12-1-1 record, Mexico posted a 9-2-1 record, Costa Rica posted a 6-2-3 record, and Dominican Republic posted a 3-0-2 record. USA won both tournaments in 2017 and 2018 while Mexico finished runners up in 2018.

MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM PROGRAM:
Canada Soccer’s Men’s EXCEL Program channels our nation’s exceptional players into the best soccer environments. The Canada Soccer Pathway works in collaboration with our provincial and territory partners as well as the professional clubs and academies. For Canada’s elite players, the program emphasizes player development on the pathway to representing Canada’s Men’s National Team in international soccer.

In 2019, Canada reached the Quarter-finals of back-to-back Concacaf Gold Cups for the first time since 2009 and finished second in their group of the inaugural Concacaf Nations League A (tied on points with USA, but second on goals difference). Along with a historic 2:0 victory over USA in Toronto, Canada also qualified for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and the next season of Concacaf Nations League A. At the youth level, Canada had top-four finishes at the Concacaf Men’s Under-17 Championship (after eliminating Costa Rica) and Concacaf Boys’ Under-15 Championship (after eliminating Mexico).

Canada Soccer’s Men’s Youth National Teams have won two Concacaf titles: both the 1986 and 1996 Concacaf Men’s Youth Championships. Canada have now qualified for 15 FIFA men’s youth tournaments: eight editions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup and seven editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Canada most recently qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019.

CANADA
1- GK- James Pantemis | CAN / CF Montréal
2- FB- Zachary Brault-Guillard | CAN / CF Montréal
3- FB- Zorhan Bassong | CAN / CF Montréal
4- FB- Diyaeddine Abzi | CAN / York United FC
5- CB- Derek Cornelius | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
6- M- Michael Baldisimo | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
7- W- Tajon Buchanan | USA / New England Revolution
8- M- David Norman | CAN / Cavalry FC
9- F- Charles-Andreas Brym | BEL / Royal Excel Mouscron
10- M- Aidan Daniels | USA / Oklahoma City Energy
11- F- Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla | CAN / CF Montréal
12- F- Mohamed Farsi | CAN / Cavalry FC
13- FB- Marcus Godinho | GER / FSV Zwickau
14- M- Ryan Raposo | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
15- F- Theo Bair | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
16- CB- Callum Montgomery | USA / Minnesota United FC
17- M- Patrick Metcalfe | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18- GK- Matthew Nogueira | POR / CS Marítimo
19- GK- Sebastian Breza | ITA / FC Bologna
20- F- Lucas Dias | POR / Sporting CP U-23

CANADA A-Z
Last name | Age | City where they grew up | Active start/first club
Abzi, Diyaeddine | 22 | Montréal, QC, CAN | FS Salaberry
Bair, Theo | 21 | Ottawa, ON, CAN | Ottawa Royals
Baldisimo, Michael | 20 | Burnaby, BC, CAN | Wesburn SA
Bassong, Zorhan | 21 | Montréal, QC, CAN | CS Longueuil
Brault-Guillard, Zachary | 22 | Montréal, QC, CAN & Lyon, FRA | Club Sportif Lagnieu
Breza, Sebastian | 23 | Montréal, QC, CAN | FS Salaberry
Brym, Charles-Andreas | 22 | Saguenay, QC, CAN | CS Jonquière (Mistral)
Buchanan, Tajon | 22 | Brampton, ON, CAN | Brampton YSC
Cornelius, Derek | 23 | Ajax, ON, CAN | Ajax SC
Daniels, Aidan | 22 | Ajax, ON, CAN | Ajax Azzurri SC
Dias, Lucas | 18 | Toronto, ON, CAN |
Farsi, Mohamed | 21 | Montréal, QC, CAN | CS Boucaniers Montréal
Godinho, Marcus | 23 | Toronto, ON, CAN | North York Azzurri
Metcalfe, Patrick | 22 | Richmond, BC, CAN | Richmond FC
Montgomery, Callum | 22 | Nanaimo, BC, CAN | Nanaimo SA
Nogueira, Matthew | 23 | Toronto, ON, CAN | Sporting Toronto
Norman, David | 22 | Coquitlam, BC, CAN | Coquitlam Metro Ford SC
Pantemis, James | 24 | Montréal, QC, CAN | Pierrefonds
Raposo, Ryan | 22 | Hamilton, ON, CAN | Mount Hamilton YSC
Tabla, Ballou Jean-Yves | 22 | Montréal, QC, CAN |

Canada Soccer Nation Podcast

The Canada Soccer Nation Podcast hosted by Jason deVos, features engaging Canadian soccer guests speaking about a range of grassroots, coach education and club development topics. Check out all available episodes now!