It’s July of the summer before the next World Cup, which means it’s time for the Gold Cup, CONCACAF’s continental tournament.
Essentially, the Gold Cup operates like any other international tournament. Twelve nations compete for about three weeks to determine who is the best in the confederation. Each FIFA confederation has one tournament like this, with the winners moving on to the Confederations Cup.
CONCACAF has not one but two of these tournaments, the Gold Cup. They’re held the summer before and the summer after the World Cup. If one nation wins both tournaments, that nation advances to the Confederations Cup. If not, there’s a playoff for that spot.
But this system is so stupid and so obviously only a money-making ploy for the nations in CONCACAF. It doesn’t make sense compared to the rest of the world. And it lowers the world-wide opinion of CONCACAF.
So now moving forward, CONCACAF has to make some changes in order to actually make these Gold Cups matter.
Only one Gold Cup per cycle
First and foremost, CONCACAF has to eliminate one of the Gold Cups per World Cup cycle. Every other confederation in the world only has one, so why can’t CONCACAF have just one?
Between the fact that it’s always hosted in the United States (more on that later) and holding it every two years, it just reeks of doing it for the money. In fact, a lot of the people taken down in the FIFA scandal in 2015 were from CONCACAF. And it would look like a complete turnaround if the new CONCACAF leadership would axe one of the tournaments to match the rest of the world.
Plus, if the Gold Cup before the World Cup gets cut, it will help out whatever nation is playing in the Confederations Cup since it won’t be playing in a tournament in back-to-back months.
Of course, this does limit the amount of competitive matches, especially for the lower nations that don’t make it to the later rounds of World Cup qualifying. And more competitive matches will help the confederation grow in the world.
Fortunately, CONCACAF appears to be headed towards a “League of Nations” type scenario. This is similar to what UEFA is about to do in order to increase the number of competitive matches, and also make it harder to other nations to schedule friendlies against European opponents.
Essentially, at its core the new system would be a pro-rel type league, with different levels and the teams would move between them based on results. This will result in more meaningful and competitive matches during the World Cup cycle, and it might be the successor to the current way for qualifying for the big tournament.
And hopefully this means the loss of one of the Gold Cups.
Rotate the host nation around
Also, every other confederation rotates the host country for its tournament. Poland and Hungary shared the 2012 Euro tournament while France hosted the 2016 version. And 13 countries will play host to the 2020 tournament.
But CONCACAF, like everything else with the confederation, is the exception. Of the 14 Gold Cups in history, the United States has played host to all of them — host 11 tournaments solo and sharing three others with Mexico and Canada.
I get why that’s the case, with the money and security that comes with hosting a big tournament in the U.S. But I think it’s time for other countries in the region to get a shot at hosting the tournament.
Canada hosted the 24-team Women’s World Cup in 2015 and would easily be able to host the Gold Cup. Mexico has hosted two World Cups. While I understand the security concerns, some of the Central American countries could co-host the tournament. And some of the bigger Caribbean islands — like Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico — could also co-host it.
Sure, it might take a bit more effort to put the tournament together. But at the end of the day, moving the Gold Cup around will make it feel like the regional tournament it should be.
Increase the number of teams to 16
Finally, I think it’s time to up the number of teams in the Gold Cup to 16.
I know that this probably won’t be a popular move as most people will argue that there’s not 16 teams good enough to be in the continental tournament. And that’s a very valid argument.
But the level of play in CONCACAF is rising. Some countries are getting better faster than others, but overall it’s getting better (of course there’s still the annoying “gamesmanship” but that’s another topic all together). And I definitely think that there will be four more teams that will be more than deserving of a spot in the tournament.
Plus, that’s four more teams that get to play competitive matches against the biggest teams in the region. And that’s more opportunities for them to grow and hopefully get better and maybe contend for a spot in the 48-team World Cups that are approaching.
And it will lead to more soccer, which, although we’ve hit that mark with the World Cup, is always a good thing, especially in the summer months.
So look, the Gold Cup is a good tournament. But it has its flaws, and they are glaring flaws. If CONCACAF wants to take this tournament from good to great, these changes are going to have to be made.