CONCACAF Nations League changes reveal Canada’s path to the Copa América
CONCACAF has revealed a number of formatting changes which will affect the region’s upcoming competitions between 2023-2026.
Among the announced alterations, the CONCACAF Nations League is being reshaped ahead of the 2023-24 edition, which is set to kick off this September. That competition will act as the qualifying process for the six CONCACAF nations set to feature in the 2024 Copa América.
The biggest changes will come in League A, where Canada is currently competing and will play in the next edition of the tournament. Upon the finalization of group stage play this March, no countries will be relegated from League A, as they have been in previous editions. Instead, four more teams will be promoted to the top of the Nations League food chain, bringing League A to 16 nations for 2023-24.
Of those 16, the 12 bottom-ranked countries according to the March FIFA World Rankings will be split into two groups of six in order to determine who will meet the four CONCACAF-top-ranked countries in the 2023-24 Nations League quarter-finals. Currently, the four top-ranked countries in CONCACAF are the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Canada.
The quarters will then be played in a new home-and-away format and will decide the four teams who qualify for both the 2023-24 Nations League Finals and 2024 Copa América.
Related read: Nightingale: Copa América 2024 chance, Gold Cup plans show size of CanMNT’s pre-2026 opportunity
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As for what it all means for CanMNT, well, it’s pretty simple.
Barring an extremely unlikely tumble down the rankings following the March international window’s Nations League games (even if Canada lost to both Curacao and Honduras, they could still stay fourth in the CONCACAF rankings), Canada will book its place in the quarters, which would allow Les Rouges to schedule friendly matches in the September and October 2023 international windows.
Canada will then just have to win a two-legged Nations League quarter-final matchup in November 2023 to qualify for the Copa América. But, even if Canada loses out in the quarters, they will get another crack at it. The four teams that lose their quarter-final matchups will have a second chance to qualify for Copa by means of a single-elimination play-in tournament at a centralized venue in March 2024.
“These revamped formats and competitions will provide a tremendous platform for our men’s national teams as they prepare to compete on the regional and global stage,” said recently re-elected CONCACAF President, Victor Montagliani.
“This is truly football first and I want to thank and congratulate our 41 Member Associations for their support as we continue to transform the game in CONCACAF.”
Also announced by CONCACAF on Tuesday was the format for 2026 World Cup qualifying.
With Canada, the United States, and Mexico already automatically qualified as hosts, CONCACAF had to make major configurations to the format fans last saw in the buildup to the 2022 World Cup.
There will be three rounds of qualifying to determine the three CONCACAF countries that will qualify directly for the 2026 tournament and the two others that will hope to qualify through the Intercontinental Playoff.
With no qualifying duties to worry about, Canada will have the freedom to organize their own friendlies in the buildup to the next World Cup. Head coach John Herdman and Canadian soccer fans will want to see the team go up against high-quality opposition in order to prepare for 2026, and improve upon the group-stage exit in Qatar.