The path to the 2018 World Cup in Russia is set, and while the United States received a fairly favorable assignment, Canada will have their work cut out for them if they are to make their first World Cup since 1986.
The USMNT will count Trinidad and Tobago and at least one other Caribbean nation among their initial opponents on the path to Russia, and though Canada got a fairly straightforward draw to start, they will have to overcome Mexico and Honduras if they get through to the fourth round.
The draw, which took place at the Konstantinovsky Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, determined the qualifying matchups for the African, North American, European, Oceanian and South American teams as they battle to become one of the 32 participants in world soccer's most prestigious tournament.
In CONCACAF, the third and fourth rounds of qualifying were drawn. The third round will consist of the 12 teams that advanced from the second round of qualifying in June, including Canada. The Canucks will play a home-and-home series against Central American minnows Belize between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8, with the winner advancing to the fourth round. The third-round matchups are:
Curacao vs. El Salvador
Canada vs. Belize
Grenada vs. Haiti
Jamaica vs. Nicaragua
St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Aruba
Antigua and Barbuda vs. Guatemala
The United States enter in the fourth round along with the other five top-ranked teams in CONCACAF, as determined by the August 2014 FIFA Rankings. They will be joined by the six winners from the third round.
The 12 teams will be divided into three groups of four and play a round-robin style tournament, between Nov. 9, 2015 and Sept. 6, 2016. The top two teams in each group will advance to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, otherwise known as the Hexagonal, or the 'Hex' for short.
The groups for the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying are as follows:
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
|Mexico||Costa Rica||United States|
|Honduras||Panama||Trinidad and Tobago|
|Curacao-El Salvador winner||Grenada-Haiti winner||St. Vincent/Grenadines-Aruba winner|
|Canada-Belize winner||Jamaica-Nicaragua winner||Antigua and Barbuda-Guatemala winner|
It was also determined during the draw that the fourth-placed team in the Hex will face the fifth-placed team in Asia for berth in the World Cup. The top three teams in the Hex qualify automatically.
Earlier this week, FIFA also released the locations and schedule for all of the matches during the 2018 World Cup, although group placements won't be known until all the teams are qualified and the final draw is made, likely in December 2017.