USA-Canada final likely in Olympic qualifying tournament

The full schedule and draw of teams have been released for the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.

olympic qualifying logoThis is the tournament in February that will determine which two teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean move on to the 2016 Olympics next summer in Rio de Janeiro.

There are eight teams in the tournament, which will take place at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, and BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.

Frisco, unfortunately for those of us who live in the Dallas area, will only host group-stage games — although, on the plus side,  it has all three of Team USA’s group games. (The Americans’ first match is against Costa Rica at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 10.)

Toyota Stadium, Frisco. (FC Dallas)

Toyota Stadium, Frisco. (FC Dallas)

The semifinals (Feb. 19) and championship (Feb. 21) will be in Houston.

The United States (No. 1 in the world) is in Group A, with  Mexico (No. 26), Costa Rica (34), and Puerto Rico (115).

 Group B consists of Canada (11), Trinidad & Tobago (48), Guatemala (84), and Guyana (92).

Each team will play the three others in its group in a round-robin.

The top two teams in each group move on to the semifinals, with the Group A winner playing the Group B runner-up, and the Group B winner playing the Group A runner-up.

The two winners of those semifinals matches then play for the championship, but, in reality,  victory is in making it to the title game, since both teams in the final secure spots in the Olympics.

Barring a major upset, the final will be between the United States and Canada.

Team USA’s closest rival in Group A is Mexico, and the Americans’ all-time record against their neighbor to the south is 31–1–1.

The U.S. women have never lost to Costa Rica.

They’ve never played Puerto Rico, but I’m more likely to beat Steph Curry in a game of one-on-one than the world’s 115th-best team is to beat the reigning World Cup champions.

Since women’s soccer became an Olympic medal sport in 1996, the United States has never failed to make the tournament.

2012 Olympic gold medal winners. (Getty Images)

The American women beat Japan 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in London on Aug. 9, 2012, to win the Olympic gold medal — their fourth in five trips to the Olympics.  (Getty Images)

The Americans have won four gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012) and one silver, when they lost 3-2 to Norway in sudden-death overtime in the title match.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis will hold a training camp in January at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif. From that camp, she’ll select the 20-player Olympic qualifying roster.

2016-Rio-Olympic-Logo-7

Four teams have already qualified for the 12-team field in the 2016 Games: Brazil (the host nation), Colombia, France and Germany.

In addition to the two CONCACAF qualifiers, there will be two teams from Africa; two from Asia; one more from Europe, the winner of a tournament in March that includes Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland; and one from Oceania, probably New Zealand.

 

 

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