By Michael Lewis
With a vital World Cup qualifier between the United States and Canada 19 days away, a major problem might lie ahead.
On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. State Department advised against traveling to Canada because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant continued to spread, Reuters reported.
The U.S. men’s national team is scheduled to meet Canada in a WCQ in Hamilton, Ontario on Jan. 30. Hamilton is 45 miles from Niagara Falls, N.Y. It is the closest foreign WCQ venue for the USA in its quest to reach the World Cup in Qatar in November.
As of Tuesday morning, the game was still on.
“The health of the players and staff remains our highest priority,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. “We continue to operate our training camps and matches under strict protocols that meet or exceed guidelines. We are engaged in frequent communication with Concacaf and the Canada Soccer Association to understand all of the procedures in place to provide the safest environment possible.”
The CDC raised its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High” for Canada, stating that Americans should avoid travel.
The State Department also Monday issued its “Level Four: Do Not Travel” advisory for Canada, citing COVID-19 cases.
During its winter window, the USMNT will host a pair of WCQs around the Canada encounter. The Americans will meet El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 27 and face Honduras in St. Paul, Minn. on Feb. 2.