Olympic qualifying draw sets up possible US-Canada final
The World Cup-champion U.S. women's national team will face Costa Rica to open the eight-team CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in February.
The United States has won the past three tournaments that determine the Olympic representatives from North and Central America and the Caribbean. The U.S. team has gone on to win the gold medal in the last three Olympics.
In addition to No. 34 Costa Rica, the top-ranked U.S. is joined by No. 26 Mexico and No. 115 Puerto Rico in Group A.
Group B is led by No. 11 Canada, No. 84 Guatemala, No. 48 Trinidad and Tobago and No. 92 Guyana. The event is scheduled for Feb. 10-21 in Houston and Frisco, Texas.
Monday's draw sets up a possible final between the United States and Canada. The top two finishers earn Olympic berths.
''In our group, we've got two very familiar opponents in Costa Rica and Mexico and we'll have to be well-prepared as they are both coming off World Cup runs and have experienced teams,'' U.S. coach Jill Ellis said in a statement.
Guyana and Puerto Rico are both newcomers to the confederation's qualification tournament, which debuted in 2004.
''I don't think we can take any team in our group lightly. There's definitely some challenges in there,'' Canada coach John Herdman told reporters on Monday.
Canada, which won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, is currently holding a training camp in Vancouver, British Columbia, in preparation for qualifying.
The women's Olympic tournament will be played from Aug. 3 to Aug. 20 across seven different venues in Brazil.
Brazil has already qualified as the host. Other nations that have already secured a berth in the 12-team field include France, Germany, Colombia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The United States won its third World Cup title this summer in Canada, and the team has not dropped a match since a 2-0 loss to France in February. The team is in the midst of a World Cup victory tour, with the next match set for Dec. 6 against Trinidad and Tobago in Hawaii.
Ellis will convene the team for a training camp at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California, in January. Rosters for Olympic qualifying are set at 20.