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Canada to start World Cup qualifying in June against CONCACAF minnow

01/15/2015 09:51 EST | Updated 03/17/2015 05:59 EDT
Canada win play either CONCACAF minnows British Virgin Islands or Dominica to kick off its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying road.

Thirty-five countries from North and Central America and the Caribbean are competing to reach the World Cup final in Russia. Qualifying in the region will last 33 months and Canada will have to survive 20 matches to make the final for the first time since 1986, its only appearance at the world soccer showcase.

There are five rounds of regional qualifying and the Canadian men, ranked ninth in CONCACAF according to the August 2014 FIFA rankings used in the draw, will join in during the second round.

British Virgin Islands and Dominica were paired in Thursday's preliminary draw in Miami, which involved 14 countries ranked No. 22 through 35 in the region.

The seven winners from the March matches advance to the second round which brings in countries seeded nine through 21.

That means Canada, currently ranked 112th in the world, will play the winner of No. 202 British Virgin Islands and No. 184 Dominica in a home-and-away series June 8-16. Canada will open at home.

The 10 second-round winners move on, joining Jamaica and Haiti — the seventh- and eight-seeded teams — in six home-and-away series in the third round, to be played Aug. 21 to Sept. 8.

The six winners advance to Round 4 joining the six top-ranked teams: Costa Rica, Mexico, U.S., Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. Those 12 teams will be placed in three round-robin groups, playing from November to September 2016. The top two from each pool advance to the final round.

The final six teams will face off in the CONCACAF hexagonal, to be played from November 2016 to October 2017. The top three in the group will advance directly to the World Cup with the fourth country taking part in an intercontinental playoff spot.

Round 1 features St. Kitts & Nevis, Belize, Montserrat, Dominica, Barbados, Bermuda, Nicaragua, Turks & Caicos, Curacao, US Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Anguilla.

Other teams joining in Round 2 like Canada are Cuba, Aruba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Suriname, Guatemala, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana, and Puerto Rico.

Thursday's drawmasters included former Brazil striker Ronaldo and Trinidad and Tobago goalie Shaka Hislop.

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