Canada might be getting one more shot at playing in next year’s Copa America Centenario, MLSsoccer.com has learned.
Currently, the 2016 mega-tournament is slated to involve the 10 teams from CONMEBOL and six teams from CONCACAF – the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and the winners of two upcoming play-off games between Panama and Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti).
But MLSsoccer.com was told on Tuesday that the Canadian team is preparing for the possibility of a play-off game of its own, which would take place during the upcoming FIFA international window of Oct. 5-13.
According to a Canadian Soccer Association official, the team expects to receive official word from CONCACAF “pretty soon” on whether such a play-off will take place, as well as who Canada’s opponent would be. Canadian head coach Benito Floro told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday that he is prepared to assemble a team for the play-off game in October, if it is confirmed.
The news comes amidst recent reports suggesting the tournament may not be played in the US, as originally planned. One report out of Chile suggests that the number of participating teams may also still be up in the air.
The CSA official said that if Canada did participate in a play-off, they would not be vying to take the place of any team that is currently qualified or attempting to qualify.
The US and Mexico were automatic qualifiers, while Costa Rica earned its spot by winning the 2014 Copa Centroamericana and Jamaica booked its place by winning the 2014 Caribbean Cup. The four teams currently scheduled for play-off games were the four best non-qualified performers at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
With two points from three games, Canada fell short of that mark. But while all other teams in CONCACAF had two possible opportunities to qualify for the Centenario (through their regional tournament and, potentially, the Gold Cup), Canada’s only chance came at the Gold Cup.
Canada is scheduled to play a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Belize on Sept. 4 and 8, and would begin play in CONCACAF’s fourth round of World Cup qualifying in November, if they advance past Belize.
Floro told MLSsoccer.com that if the potential Copa America Centenario play-off game does not materialize, his squad is still planning to play a friendly during October’s FIFA international window.