Five matches. Four draws. One victory. But most importantly, no losses.
The Canadian men’s soccer team, so far, is undefeated in the final round of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, earning points in each contest.
Canada currently sits in fourth place in the CONCACAF qualification standings, which would be good enough to enter a playoff for a chance to make it to the World Cup. The top three CONCACAF qualifying teams automatically punch their ticket to the big tournament.
One win and four draws may not sound like a lot, and there are still nine matches left to play, but there’s plenty of reasons for Canadian soccer fans to be optimistic the team will qualify for its first men’s World Cup since 1986.
Among those reasons: two draws were against the U.S. and Mexico, the cream of the crop in CONCACAF, while on the road.
Canada also defeated El Salvador 3-0, while playing to a tie against Honduras and Jamaica, good enough for seven points in the standings.
In addition, Canada’s men have been tearing it up on the pitch. Since the first round of CONCACAF qualifying, three of the top six scorers have been Canadian.
Cyle Larin, a striker for Turkish club Beşiktaş, leads all players with nine goals. Vancouver Whitecaps forward Lucas Cavallini has five goals, as does forward Jonathan David of French Ligue 1 club Lille. Twenty-year-old Canadian sensation Alphonso Davies, who plays left back for Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga, isn’t far behind with four goals.
The team’s next match is Wednesday night against Panama at BMO Field in Toronto.
HOW DID CANADA GET HERE?
World Cup qualifying is done by region. Canada belongs to CONCACAF, which is the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.
The top three CONCACAF teams during qualifying gain entry into the World Cup, while the fourth-place team must play a two-legged (two-game) home-and-away playoff series against a team from another region. The winners of the playoff will be determined by aggregate score (score differential).
There are three rounds of qualifying for CONCACAF national teams. The top five teams in the region, as determined by FIFA rankings, move straight through to the final round.
First-round play began in late March and included 30 teams in six groups. The winners of each group moved on to the second round. Canada won its group with four consecutive victories against Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Aruba and Suriname.
In the second round, played in June, first-round winners were paired up and played a two-legged home-and-away series. Canada drew Haiti and won both games. The other teams to qualify were Panama and El Salvador.
The three teams then joined the top five ranked teams in the final round. Each team is to play one another twice, both at home and away, for a total of 14 matches. Three points are earned for each victory, one for a draw, and none for losses.
Final matches of the third round are scheduled to be played March 30, 2022.
Prior to Canada’s match Wednesday against Panama, the rankings were as follows.
Mexico, 11 points
U.S., 8 points
Panama, 8 points
Canada 7 points
Costa Rica, 6 points
El Salvador, 5 points
Honduras, 3 points
Jamaica, 2 points