Skip to content

Canada calls up MLS players Ahmed, Russell-Rowe for Copa America pre-camp

Canada's men's soccer squad has called up a pair of young Major League Soccer players for training camp ahead of its Copa America campaign.
Cavalry FC's Fraser Aird, left, and Vancouver Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed (22) vie for the ball during the second half of a Canadian Championship quarterfinal soccer match in Vancouver on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

Canada's men's soccer squad has called up a pair of young Major League Soccer players for training camp ahead of its Copa America campaign.

The team announced Thursday that Vancouver Whitecaps wingback Ali Ahmed and Columbus Crew striker Jacen Russell-Rowe are both headed to Atlanta to join the national team.

Ahmed, 23, has one goal and one assist in 16 appearances for the Whitecaps this year while 21-year-old Russell-Rowe has three goals in 11 outings for the Crew.

Both players hail from Toronto and debuted for the senior men's team at the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Toronto last summer, but neither was on the squad that played friendly games against the Netherlands and France earlier this month.

Ahmed said he spoke to Canadian head coach Jesse Marsch around the time the roster for the friendlies was announced.

"He told me to just stay fit and be ready just in case they call me," he said. "So I wasn't too shocked (to be called up on Thursday.) I knew there was still a chance. Definitely very, very excited to join the group."

Canada also announced Thursday that defender Dominick Zator of Korona Kielce and striker Charles-Andreas Brym of Sparta Rotterdam are returning to their club teams but remain eligible for the national team.

Canada's 26-player Copa America is set to be announced Saturday.

CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, is allowing participating teams to have an expanded squad of 26 players instead of the usual 23. The move aligns CONMEBOL with UEFA, which is also allowing a 26-man roster for Euro 2024.

The 49th-ranked Canadian men open Group A play June 20 against No. 1 Argentina at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium before facing Peru on June 25 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City and Chile on June 29 at Inter&Co Stadium in Orlando.

The 2024 Copa America marks the 48th edition of the tournament. Canada, one of six CONCACAF guest teams, qualified by beating Trinidad and Tobago in a playoff in March.

The other CONCACAF entries are the 11th-ranked U.S., No. 14 Mexico, No. 45 Panama, No. 52 Costa Rica and No. 55 Jamaica.

The U.S., Mexico, Panama and Jamaica qualified by winning their CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinals. Costa Rica, like Canada, needed to beat Honduras 3-1 in a playoff to join them.

It's Canada's first trip to Copa America.

The Canadian men were slated to take part in the 2001 Copa America as a reward for winning the Gold Cup in February 2000. But Canada Soccer decided not to attend less than a week before its scheduled start in Colombia.

CONMEBOL announced on the eve of the tournament that it would be postponed to 2002 due to security concerns. But five days later, it decided to go ahead with the event in Colombia.

Canada, which was slated to open play against Argentina in Medellin, had already sent its players back to their clubs so did not take part.

Costa Rica subsequently took the place of Canada, joining Mexico as a guest team at the 12-country tournament.

Argentina also pulled out, saying it had sent its players home after the tournament was initially cancelled. Honduras served as a late replacement.

The 2001 competition, played under heavy security, went on without incident.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.

The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks