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  • North American women's footballers enter Olympic qualifying event


    With the US and the Dominican Republic qualifying for the men's football event at the Paris 2024 Olympics, it is now the turn of North America's women's footballers to do the same. While the men's football is an underage event and had the stars of tomorrow, established names at the very top of world football are entering the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship.


    Eight teams enter the event. The top two teams; the US and Canada automatically qualified, while the other CONCACAF nations that entered (nine nations declined to do so) were in qualifying: with six groups of five teams, only the winner would progress. Mexico came through a group containing Puerto Rico, Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, and Anguilla; Costa Rica overcame Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guatemala, Curaçao, and the US Virgin Islands; Jamaica got past the Dominican Republic, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Grenada; Panama won a group also containing El Salvador, Belize, Barbados, and Aruba; Haiti got past Cuba, Honduras, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the British Virgin Islands; and Trinidad and Tobago won a group featuring Guyana, Nicaragua, Dominica, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The qualifying process was littered with huge scorelines, but the final eight are now set.


    The event will take place in Mexico, with Guadalupe's Estadio BBVA, home of five-time North American men's champions CF Monterrey, as well as San Nicolás de los Garza's Estadio Universitario, home of seven-time men's Mexican champions Tigres UNAL providing impressive venues: both nearby in the Monterrey metropolitan area. Group A consists of the US, Mexico, Jamaica and Haiti; Group B contains Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.


    In the past, this was the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)'s sole women's football competition: the winners could call themselves queens of North America; in effect making it the equivalent of the Gold Cup for men. Indeed, it carried the name "CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup" from 2000 to 2006. However, now CONCACAF have introduce a separate competition called the "CONCACAF W Gold Cup", meaning this event, renamed the "CONCACAF W Championship", is secondary and is more notable as a way in to other competitions: it qualifies places not just for the Olympics, but also the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as well as the first edition of the W Gold Cup in 2024.


    In terms of the competition itself, the top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals, and there will be a final, as well as a third-placed play-off. The winner automatically qualifies for the W Gold Cup in 2024, as well as the Olympics. The second Olympic spot will be decided in an "Olympic play-in" between the losing finalist and the winner of the third-placed play-off, which will take place in September 2023. This seems to be to avoid a situation where if the world champion Americans and Olympic champion Canadians faced each other in a semifinal then one of them would have to be eliminated, meaning CONCACAF will have weaker representation. In terms of the FIFA World Cup, all four semifinalists will qualify, while the third-placed team in each group qualifies for the intercontinental play-offs, in which ten teams from six confederations will fight for the final three spots at the World Cup.


    There is plenty of talent on display, but the short version of the tournament is: one team will secure an Olympic place, two teams will have to wait for a play-off next year, and the remaining five will see their Olympic dream die.


    Patrick Green

    Writer, Totallympics News


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