It's qualifying season for the 2020 Olympics — here's how Canadian teams can get in
8 squads already have tickets to Tokyo and more could join them
Canada will be well represented in the various team sports at the Olympics this summer. Eight Canadian squads have qualified so far: men's and women's rugby sevens, women's soccer, women's basketball, women's water polo, women's softball, men's volleyball and men's field hockey.
The most teams Canada has ever had in a Summer Olympics is nine. But that happened at the 1976 Montreal Games, which shouldn't really count because host countries get a lot of automatic berths. Canada qualified eight teams for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, but there's an asterisk there too. Those Games were boycotted by the Soviet bloc.
So it's fair to say the 2020 Olympics will be the pinnacle of team-sport representation for Canada. And five more teams still have a chance to join the party. Here's a quick look at who they are and what they need to do to get to Tokyo:
Men's 3-on-3 basketball
Canada was supposed to participate in a world qualifier in India starting March 18, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus crisis. No makeup date was immediately announced, but basketball's world governing body said it will have to take place before the so-called "universality" qualifier in Hungary starting April 24. That one is meant to ensure a wider variety of countries participate in the various Olympic basketball tournaments.
Whenever the world qualifier happens, 20 teams will compete, and they're divided into four groups. The top two teams in each group advance to the quarter-finals. From there, it's single-knockout. The top three teams at the end (so both finalists and the winners of the third-place game) go to Tokyo. The other teams in Canada's group are the Netherlands, Latvia, Croatia and India.
There's an identical qualifier for women's 3-on-3, but Canada doesn't have a team in it and won't have one in Tokyo.
Canada's regional qualifier starts March 20 in Mexico. Eight countries will be there. They're divided into two groups, and the top two teams from each advance to the semifinals. The winners of those semis get spots in the Olympics. Everyone else is out.
Canada is ranked 73rd in the world. The other teams in its group are Honduras (No. 62), El Salvador (69) and Haiti (86).
If Canada advances, it will likely have to beat either host Mexico (ranked 11th in the world) or the United States (22nd) in the semis for a spot in the Olympics. That'll be a challenge for a Canadian team that hasn't qualified for the Olympics since 1984.
After swinging and missing at the Premier 12 tournament back in November, Canada is down to its final two strikes. First on deck is the Americas qualifier in Arizona starting March 22. Only the winner gets a ticket to Tokyo. That'll be tough with strong baseball countries like Cuba, the Dominican and the U.S. among the eight teams competing.
But the second- and third-place finishers will earn one last shot at the final six-team Olympic qualifier. That tournament was supposed to start April 1 in Taiwan, but it was pushed back to June 17-21 because of the coronavirus crisis.
Men's water polo
An Olympic spot was up for grabs at the Pan Am Games last summer but Canada just missed out on it by losing to the U.S. in the gold-medal match. There's one more chance at the world qualifier in the Netherlands starting March 29. Four Olympic spots are available there. The Canadian men last made it in 2008.
The most anticipated Olympic qualifying tournament comes last. Starting June 23, Canada's men's basketball team — stocked (hopefully) with NBA players — plays its last-minute qualifier in Victoria. It's a six-team tournament and only the winner goes to the Olympics. Canada will have to get through reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, though his Greece team doesn't have any other NBA stars. Same for the other teams: Czech Republic, Turkey, China and Uruguay.
Canada is grouped with Greece and China for round-robin play. The top two teams from both groups cross over to play the semifinals, and the winners of those play for the Olympic spot
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