Canada's latest quest to reach its first World Cup since 1986 is officially underway.
The Canadians kicked off their qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup on Thursday with a comfortable 5-1 victory over Bermuda.
Cyle Larin bagged a hat-trick, scoring the encounter's first two goals early before completing his treble in the second half. Canada's focal point, 20-year-old star Alphonso Davies, set up all three markers.
The contest, played inside an empty Exploria Stadium in Orlando, was the first of what could be 20-plus games on Canada's potential path to Qatar, the host of next year's showpiece tournament.
CONCACAF qualifying is split into three rounds. Teams ranked sixth through 35th in the confederation, which includes Canada, are divided into six groups of five for the opening stage. In addition to Bermuda, John Herdman's squad will play the Cayman Islands on Sunday before closing out the first round against Aruba and Suriname in June.
Only the six group winners from the first round advance, and those teams will be split into three pairs for two-legged ties in June. It's unclear if those games will be played at neutral venues or at home stadiums.
The three winners from that second round advance to the final stage of qualifying, when those squads will be grouped with the perennial CONCACAF heavyweights: the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Jamaica. After the eight teams in the final round have played one another both home and away, the top three nations will earn automatic World Cup berths. The fourth-place team will enter an intercontinental playoff in June 2022.
Herdman was without striker Jonathan David for Thursday's match. The 21-year-old, who's enjoying a stellar campaign with Ligue 1 club Lille, was absent after the French league barred players from international travel outside of Europe due to quarantine rules related to the coronavirus pandemic.