(Reuters) – Reigning Olympic women’s football champions, the United States, will open their bid for a berth at next year’s Rio Games against Costa Rica on Feb. 10 after Monday’s draw in Miami for the CONCACAF qualifying championship.
Eight qualified national teams were divided into two groups for the tournament, which sends two teams to the 2016 Summer Olympics and will be played in Texas with the final on Feb. 21 at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.
The two finalists of the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) tournament will qualify directly to the Olympics.
The United States, who will be defending their CONCACAF title, were drawn in Group A along with Puerto Rico, Mexico and Costa Rica and will play their round-robin games at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco, just outside Dallas.
Group B is comprised of Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. Their group games will be played at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“It’s great for CONCACAF that we’ve got new participants in the qualifying and it bodes well for our region that other countries are developing the women’s game,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said in a statement.
“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.”
Puerto Rico and Mexico will kick off the tournament on Feb. 10 with the U.S.-Costa Rica match immediately following.
Group B competition gets underway the next day with Guatemala playing Trinidad & Tobago, and Canada going against Guyana in Houston.
The U.S. women’s team will attempt to qualify for a sixth consecutive Olympics and won the coveted title for a fourth time at the 2012 London Games, beating Japan 2-1 in the tournament final.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)