TORONTO — Despite the big announcement that Canada will be hosting the United States for the first time in 15 years this summer, Stephen Hart maintained that the real focus will be on World Cup qualifying.
“Of course, the significance of playing the US on home soil after so many years is a fantastic opportunity, but more importantly, it’s a preparation game for Cuba,” the Canadian national team head coach told reporters at a press event on Thursday night.
Canada will host the US for a friendly at BMO Field on June 3 before heading to Cuba five days later for the opening match of CONCACAF’s third round of World Cup qualification. Hart said that the American test will be a good send-off heading into a tough round of qualification that also includes Honduras and Panama.
“We were looking for a game before the Cuba game, but it had to fall within a certain time frame,” Hart said. “We had discussions about this game and it’s an excellent opportunity to play a CONCACAF team, arguably one of the top CONCACAF teams. It’s almost ideal, we get to play that game and then we go into Cuba.”
Despite downplaying the magnitude of the US friendly – part of the Canadian Soccer Association’s centennial celebration – Hart acknowledged that fans and players will be looking forward to the match as the border rivalry is always a big affair.
“I know the players are really excited about playing the US on home soil after all these years,” Hart said. “It’s one of the last opportunities for us to have a game before we go into qualification, so in that respect it’s very, very important.”