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Canada to get first look at its path in inaugural CONCACAF Nations League


Canada will learn Wednesday its first steps in the new CONCACAF Nations League, set to kick off in September with qualifiers featuring 34 men's national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The draw for those qualifiers will take place Wednesday in Miami.

The CONCACAF Nations League qualifying will be played on FIFA match dates from September 2018 through March 2019. Each team will play four matches that will produce a combined table used to seed all 34 contestants into tiers for the inaugural edition of the full CONCACAF Nations League in 2019.

The six teams that made it to the final round of World Cup qualifying in the region — Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, the U.S., and Trinidad & Tobago — will bypass the qualifying portion and go straight into the top tier of the Nations League. Those six countries can use the late 2018 and early 2019 FIFA dates for international friendlies.

Guatemala, currently under suspension by FIFA, will not participate. 

The new Nations League competition will be used as qualifying for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and to determine regional seeding in World Cup qualifying.

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, a former head of the Canadian Soccer Association, called the CONCACAF Nations League "a watershed moment" for the confederation.

CONCACAF says the new format will provide "quality football" for larger members. For smaller ones, it will offer more opportunities to play.

The draw for the 34 teams taking part in the qualifying will use the new CONCACAF ranking index.

Pot A will include the top eight participating teams: Jamaica, Canada, Haiti, El Salvador, Martinique, Cuba, French Guiana and Guadeloupe.

Pot B will include the next nine ranked teams: Nicaragua, St. Kitts & Nevis, Curacao, Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Guyana and Belize.

Pot C will feature the next nine ranked teams after Pot B: Bonaire, Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Dominica and Aruba.

Pot D will include the final eight ranked teams: Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint-Martin, Sint Maarten, Anguilla and British Virgin Islands.

The schedule will be as follows:

Match Day 1 — September 2018: Pot A versus Pot D, and Pot B versus Pot C.

Match Day 2 — October 2018: Pot A versus Pot C, and Pot B versus Pot D, plus one team from Pot B versus one team from Pot C.

Match Day 3 — November 2018: Pot A versus Pot B, and Pot C versus Pot D, plus one team from Pot B versus one team from Pot C.

Match Day 4 — March 2019: Pot A versus Pot A, Pot B versus Pot B, Pot C versus Pot C, and Pot D versus Pot D, plus one team from Pot B versus one team from Pot C.

Europe has already announced similar plans for the UEFA Nations League.

The European plan calls for 55 national teams divided into four leagues based on October 2017 rankings.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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