Canada will play one of its three group matches in this summer’s Gold Cup soccer tournament at BMO Field.
The national side hosts Costa Rica in the second match of a double header on July 14 that will also feature Jamaica playing El Salvador in the first game at 6 p.m.
This is the first time that the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) regional tournament will be played in Canada.
A total of 12 teams will compete in the biennial competition to be played in Toronto and 12 American cities. They are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
Canada begins play on July 8 against the group’s top seed Costa Rica in Carson, California before travelling to Houston to meet Jamaica three days later.
Group “A” comprises Panama, Haiti, Honduras or French Guiana, while Group “C” is made up of six-time champions Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago.
The final spot will be determined next week through a playoff between the Copa Centroamericana and the Caribbean Soccer Union fifth-place finishers Honduras and French Guiana, respectively. French Guiana will host the first leg match on March 25 and the return game will be played in Honduras four days later.
Previous Gold Cup winners Canada, the United States and Mexico automatically qualified for this year’s competition.
Coached by former Canadian coach Stephen Hart, T & T will meet Guatemala in Chicago on July 9, Cuba in Phoenix on July 12 and reigning champions Mexico in Charlotte three days later.
Hart, who was fired as Canada’s head coach in October 2012 after posting 20 wins in 45 matches, which ranks second in wins and first in win percentage among Canadian coaches, said his group is challenging.
“This is the sixth Gold Cup I will be involved in,” he said. “My experience is that on paper versus the field are two different matters. The group must be respected and is a tricky one, especially facing Mexico in the last game. The opening game is crucial and we must strive for consistency and get into the knockout phase. It is important to prepare well and be in good moments individually and collectively. This is also part of the overall process of preparing for the 2018 World Cup qualification which begins for us in November.”
With Hart at the helm since June 2013, T & T has climbed 30 spots in the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) ranking and reached the Gold Cup quarter-final two years ago for the first time in 13 years.
Prior to becoming Canada’s 14th full-time coach in October 2009, he was the interim coach on two occasions, leading Canada to the 2007 Gold Cup semi-final and the tournament’s quarter-final two years later.
The Gold Cup quarter-finals will take place in Baltimore and New York on July 18 and 19 respectively while the semi-finals will be held in Atlanta on July 22.
The playoff for third place and the final are on July 26 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.