For the first time in 34 years, Canada topped their noisy neighbours from the South, defeating the US 2-0 last Tuesday night at BMO Field.
The sentimental value of such a historic result was clear to anyone who tuned in as the scenes both on the pitch and in the stands at full-time painted the picture of just how special the night was for Canadian soccer.
What might not have been so glaringly obvious for the average observer was the magnitude of the Canadian victory in the big picture. Thanks to their win over a much higher ranked opponent in the Americans, Canada picked up 18 points in the FIFA world rankings, enough to climb to 69 worldwide and more importantly sixth in the Concacaf region.
The significance of a sixth place spot in Concacaf lies in the region’s recently altered qualification process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Following the conclusion of the competition’s Nations League in June 2020, the top six teams in the region will enter the “Hex” qualifying process in hopes of heading for Qatar in 2022.
Canada jump to 69th in the world and sixth in Concacaf, their highest ranking since 2012. They're now in a position to qualify for the Hex for the first time since 1997. #CanMNT https://t.co/IidnCVIN6Y— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) October 24, 2019
Once the Hex commences, each of the six nations will play one another in a home and away tie beginning in September 2020 and finishing up a year later with the top three teams qualifying directly for the 2022 World Cup. As it stands today, Canada would be joined in Hex round robin play by Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, USA, and the reigning Gold Cup champions Mexico.
While placing in the top three in this collection of countries will be a tough task for Canada, the Hex still offers the best chance for World Cup qualification. Nations ranked 7 to 35 in Concacaf will play in a grueling group style competition with just a lone winner coming through. From there, the lucky winner still needs to get through both the fourth place side from the Hex group as well as an additional playoff round featuring teams from around the globe in order to get a ticket to Qatar in 2022.
With all this in mind, John Herdman and Canada will be quite content to take their chances facing off against the best Concacaf has to offer for a place in the World Cup.
Although Canadians are surely still basking in the glory of beating the US side, the margin by which they’ve climbed into the top six is notably narrow. To be exact, Canada currently leads El Salvador by a mere three points in FIFA’s rankings.
A rematch against the US is set for November 15th in Orlando. Riding the high of their historic win last time out, Herdman and co. will be looking to pick up where they left off at BMO Field as a positive result in their upcoming fixture could be the key to securing their position in the Hex.