Mark-Anthony Kaye – Canada – challenge for ball

It’s crunch time for Canada’s men’s national team and their aspirations of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Les Rouges will play their final First Round games on June 5 against Aruba and on June 8 against Suriname, decisive matches in Group B of Conacaf’s open qualification stage. They’ll need positive results from both, with only the Group B winner advancing to a Second Round head-to-head series against the Group E winner.

Should head coach John Herdman’s team reach the Second Round, it’ll face either Belize, Haiti or Nicaragua. From that to-be-determined side, the Group B vs. Group E winner will reach the eight-team Third Round stage alongside the likes of Mexico, the US and Costa Rica. 

Despite the arduous task ahead of them, Canada are in a good spot heading into these First Round qualifiers against Aruba and Suriname. They occupy first place in the five-team Group B after beating Bermuda and the Cayman Islands back in March, shortly before the 2021 MLS season began.

“It’s great to be back together and continue to build on our momentum as every match counts on the road to Qatar 2022,” Herdman said in a release. “We have an opportunity to build on our solid start, after we put ourselves in a good position with goals difference in the first two matches so that we can control our destiny in the games to come.”

Canada’s aspirations are boosted by an MLS-heavy roster, with fullback Richie Laryea (Toronto FC), midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (LAFC) and striker Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps FC) some standouts. New England Revolution forward Tajon Buchanan stands to possibly earn his senior-team debut after featuring prominently at the Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament last March.

Should Canada reach their aims, they’d move closer to their goal of reaching a FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986. Though based on FIFA’s world ratings, they defaulted into the First Round path. That created tougher sledding for Herdman’s group, resulting in little room for error in these qualifiers.

All told, 30 Concacaf sides are in First Round qualifiers. Canada are ranked 70th in the world, or sixth in the region, and narrowly trail Honduras (67th) and El Salvador (69th).