The U.S. and Canada appear headed for a potentially explosive final in the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship this weekend. But first they must get past weak semifinal opponents Friday in Houston, where Canada plays Costa Rica and the U.S. meets Trinidad and Tobago (NBCSN, 5:30 p.m. PST).
Friday's winners earn invitations to this summer's Olympic Games in Brazil as well as berths in Sunday's tournament final. And if the U.S. and Canada advance to the title game, it could prove as intriguing as any match at the Olympics.
Both teams rolled through group play unbeaten and without being scored upon, Canada piling up 21 goals and winning each of its three games by at least five goals and the U.S. enjoying a 16-0 goal differential. Canada outshot its opposition, 91-5, and the U.S. had a 67-3 edge, giving up only one shot on goal.
But while Canada spread its scoring around, with 10 women contributing, the U.S. got 13 of its 16 goals from Crystal Dunn (six), Carli Lloyd (three) and Christen Press and Alex Morgan (two each).
The U.S., reigning world and Olympic women's champion, has never lost in Olympic qualifying and has never been defeated by Trinidad – although the islanders played the Americans tough in a 1-0 loss in World Cup qualifying two years ago. Trinidad finished second in its group, beating Guyana and Guatemala.
That leaves Canada facing the tougher challenge. Costa Rica, which beat Mexico and Puerto Rico to finish second to the U.S. in its group, is ranked fourth in CONCACAF in the most recent FIFA poll and defeated Canada when the two countries last met in the Pan Am Games. But Canada fielded a B team in that game, which was played only two weeks after the Women's World Cup.
Costa Rica participated in the World Cup for the first time last summer, drawing twice and getting eliminated in the group stage. Trinidad and Tobago has never qualified for the women's world championship.