The Canadian men’s National team is set to take on Jamaica in a crucial two-leg CONCACAF Nations League (CNL) quarterfinal two-game series beginning today.
The winner will not only advance to the CNL semi-final in Arlington, Texas, in March but will also automatically qualify for the 2024 Copa América, being held in the U.S. next summer.
These incentives are both important to Canada for separate reasons.
Canada fell to the U.S. in the 2023 edition of the CNL in June, failing to capitalize on a chance to win its first men’s trophy since the 2000 Gold Cup.
The first leg will be held in Kingston, Jamaica, on Nov. 17, while the return leg will be at BMO Field in Toronto on Nov. 21.
Advancing to the 2024 semi-final offers Canada a chance to avenge the loss to the U.S., and also the opportunity to win that elusive trophy.
The ability to qualify for the Copa América could allow Canada to play against some of the top teams in the world, including reigning World Cup winners Argentina, as well as traditional powerhouses Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia.
However, losing to Jamaica does not automatically knock Canada out of contention for the Copa América.
Each loser of the CNL quarterfinal will be placed in a single-match playoff next spring to determine the final two spots afforded to CONCACAF teams.
However, the expectation for Canada should be to get past this Jamaican side.
Adam Warren, member of the Voyageurs, Canadian soccer’s official supporters’ group, says the opportunity to qualify for the Copa América is exciting.
“Being able to qualify for Copa América, and then facing teams like Argentina, Brazil, even Colombia, that’s pretty big,” Warren said. “Competitive matches against quality countries are extremely important because we don’t get enough of that.”
However, he notes Jamaica is not a pushover and playing in the Caribbean country will be difficult.
“Going to Jamaica will be difficult,” Warren said. “In the past, thinking of guys that have the experience there like Cyle Larin, he’s not in form.”
He said the keys to winning will be playing as a team and not only relying on star talent like Alphonso Davies to provide moments of magic.
Interim head coach Mauro Biello has opted for a veteran-heavy squad, with all of Canada’s key players being fit, including midfielder Stephen Eustaquio, who missed October’s friendly against Japan through injury.
Eustaquio has likely been the Canadian player in the best form, scoring twice in his last five appearances and consistently playing in the heart of FC Porto’s midfield.
Alphonso Davies also comes into camp in good form, as the left-back has started all but one of Bayern Munich’s seven matches since the October international break, including a 4-0 win over rivals Borussia Dortmund.
On the other hand, star striker Jonathan David has found goals hard to come by, as he’s gone goalless in his last 10 matches for Ligue 1 club Lille after scoring 24 for the French side last season.
Striker Larin has also struggled, scoring just once in 12 appearances for the La Liga club Mallorca after an off-season move from Real Valladolid.
Canada will need its forwards firing to get past Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake, who’s coming off a clean sheet victory to help his Philadelphia Union advance in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Canada last faced Jamaica in a World Cup qualifying match in March 2022, coming out victorious in an iconic 4-0 win at BMO Field, clinching qualification to the 2022 World Cup with the victory.