The next chance for Canada's new generation of players to prove that they have what it takes to compete on the international stage. After a few disappointing showings in the past cycle the Under-23 team is now looking to move on from their Pan Am games performance and focus on Olympic qualifying.
When Canada takes to the field this October in the hopes of claiming a top three finish that would keep their Olympic dreams alive they will likely do it with a much stronger roster than what they bought on the field in Hamilton earlier this summer. It will be crucial for the team's hopes to be able to call in a number of their key players that were absent last time around with the likes of Jordan Hamilton and Cyle Larin hopefully being released by their clubs this time around.
On Tuesday the team learned which countries they will have to get past to make it to Brazil next summer. Canada will have to finish in the top two of their group to book a place in the semi-finals and then win their semi to book their ticket directly to Rio. The two finalists will represent CONCACAF at the Olympics with the third place finisher having to go through a playoff against Colombia next March.
It will not be easy for the young Canadians who were drawn in to Group A along with the United States, Panama, and Cuba. The Canadians will be expected to finish ahead of Cuba in that group but their chances of making the Olympics will depend on them knocking off one of the United States or Panama as well. It certainly will not be an easy task for the squad but making it to the Olympics was always going to require them beating three tough opponents.
Group B will be made up of Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, and the winner of a playoff between Costa Rica and Guatemala. It may be the easier of the two groups but not by much considering that all four teams in it should be capable of putting in a good performance. Even Haiti is proving to be a much tougher out in recent years as their program continues to develop.
Canada will play their first two games at Sporting Park in Kansas City as they take on the United States on October 1st followed by a game against Panama on October 3rd. If Canada cannot pick up points in those first two games they could very well be out of this tournament before the group moves to Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Colorado for their game against Cuba on the 6th.
It is certainly not an ideal draw for Canada but their is enough quality in the U23 player pool to get the job done. It is now just a matter of getting those players all in the squad and putting together the performances on the field this October.