In a year already sure to be a volatile one for the Canadian national team, their fate in the CONCACAF Gold Cup is anything but clear after learning which teams they’ll face in the group stage this summer.
Canada found out on Wednesday they’ll be in Group A with Martinique, Mexico and Panama when the tournament gets underway in July. And while this year’s tournament may be a lesser priority for some countries – Mexico and Panama already have full plates thanks to World Cup qualifying, and El Tri are also booked for this summer's Confederations Cup – it matters a great deal for Canada, who won’t participate in another international competition until the 2015 edition of the tournament.
The group favorite is clearly Mexico, but the region’s top team will be fresh off the Confed Cup in Brazil and will likely be playing a less-than-full-strength team. Panama may also opt for a similar plan while they’re still in the running for their first World Cup appearance and are embroiled in qualifying matches.
If that’s the case, Canada could catch a break as the rebuild continues, and they should field players that will be in the mix when qualifying begins in earnest for 2018.
They still have no coach and have a team in transition, so this edition of the tournament will see a number of new faces on the field and on the sidelines.
Canada’s best chance at three points comes on the opening day of the competition when they take on Martinique as part of the tournament’s curtain-raiser at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on June 7.
The most recent meeting between the two teams was in a friendly in Martinique in 2008, with Canada coming out on top 1-0. The team have drawn both meetings in the Gold Cup, with Canada needing penalties to beat Martinique at the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament
Next the team heads to CenturyLink Field in Seattle, where they’ll most likely face a hostile atmosphere against Mexico on July 11.
It will be the closest trip for any Canadian fans hoping to watch their team in action, as Seattle is about a two and half hour drive from Vancouver.
The team’s final group stage game is in Denver against Panama, who knocked Canada out of the 2011 Gold Cup. Canada beat Panama 1-0 in Toronto last September in World Cup qualifying, but Los Canaleros won 2-0 at home a few days later in Panama City.