CONCACAF stands for (take a deep breath) the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and is the body that governs the national and club football of North America, Central America, the Caribbean islands and also includes 3 South American nations; Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
There are 40 member nations of CONCACAF, though 80-90% of the geographical area is taken up by just two nations (USA and Canada), with Mexico being the only other sizable nation in the federation. Five of the members of CONCACAF are not eligible to take part in FIFA competitions (primarily the World Cup), these being; Sint Maarten (part of the Netherlands Antilles, off the east coast of Puerto Rico), French Guyana (an overseas region of France on the north coast of South America), Guadeloupe (another French region, an archipelago south east of Cuba), Martinique (another French region, south of Guadeloupe) and Saint-Martin (the French half of the island that Sint Maarten is also part of).
The federation came to be in Mexico City back in 1961, when the Football Confederation of Central America and the Caribbean (CCCF) and the North American Football Confederation (NAFC) merged into one confederation.
CONCACAF nations have hosted the FIFA World Cup 3 times to date; Mexico 70, Mexico 86 and USA 94 and the USA is in the bidding to host the 2018 or 2022 tournament.
The president of the federation is Jack Austin Warner from Trinidad and Tobago,who is a businessman, former teacher and also the owner of the very interestingly named Joe Public FC, a club in his home nation. Controversy seems to follow the man like flies around… err… dog doodoo. He and his family were accused of selling World Cup tickets illegally and were fined $1m, of which only a quarter of has been paid.
He also allegedly attempted to get the Scottish FA to pay cheques to him personally that were due to the Trinidad and Tobago FA. Warner is also very loose tongued and unprofessional with some of the things he says to the press, having upset Dwight Yorke, Roy Keane and the English FA amongst others with comments that should not be made in public when you hold the kind of office he does.
For the clubs in this federation the competition is the CONCACAF Champions League. Up until 2008 it was known as the Champions Cup but is now looking to boost it’s profile with a rebranding, particularly with soccer’s growing popularity in the United States and the, still largely untapped, huge market there.
After forming CONCACAF in ’61, they got straight to work and organised the new tournament to crown the champion club of the federation. It was won by CD Guadalajara of Mexico in it’s first instance and that set the precedent for things to come, with Mexico dominating the tournament. It has been won by a Mexican team 25 times, as well as 12 Mexican runners up.
The format of the competition changed a number of times, but generally was a knockout with 8 teams competing, 4 from North America, 3 from Central America and 1 from the Caribbean. From August 2008 the tournament changed format, with 24 teams competing, of which 16 take part in the group stage. The preliminary stage is a 2-legged aggregate score knockout between 16 teams who were lower ranked in their national leagues, reducing the field to 16 teams. Four groups of 4 teams then play each other home and away and the qualification to the quarter finals will be the top 2 teams in each group, therefore halving the number of teams remaining in the competition.
After that it is a knockout competition, again 2 legs and aggregate score determining the victor. Unlike many tournaments, the final is also 2 legs with a home and away match, rather than the usual standard of a neutral venue game with just one match.
The 24 teams reach the competition through their own domestic leagues, made up as follows;
- 4 teams from the US’s MLS
- 1 Canadian team
- 4 Mexican teams
- 3 Costa Rican teams
- 3 Honduran teams
- 2 teams from El Salvador
- 2 teams from Guatemala
- 2 teams from Panama
- and 3 teams from the Caribbean, who qualify via the CFU Club Championship
The nations of CONCACAF compete in the Gold Cup, a two-yearly competition and the most successful team in it’s history is Mexico, but in the last 20 years the USA have seen a large amount of success, finishing in the top 3 in 9 out of 10 competitions.
The tournament began in 1963, two years after the formation of CONCACAF, and was originally called the CONCACAF Championship. The first event took place in El Salvador and the home nation finished runners up to Costa Rica. The competition ran every 2 years till 1971, when it became the qualification tournament for FIFA’s World Cup and therefore every 4 years, until 1991 when the Gold Cup was formed.
Since the formation of the Gold Cup, it’s popularity has flourished and the tournament is now well respected, well supported and hard fought for. The USA have hosted every tournament, co-hosting with Mexico in 1993 and 2003, and both of them have won the competition 4 times each. Canada have a solitary title from the 2000 tournament which saw many shocks, the biggest of which was neither the USA nor Mexico reaching the semi-finals.
The women’s tournament in CONCACAF also doubles as the qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and is now known as the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup. It began in 1991 as the CONCACAF’s Women’s Championship and the first 3 tournaments (’91, ’93 and ’94) were all won by the United States. In 1998, the US qualified for the World Cup automatically as hosts and therefore did not participate, allowing a new champion for the first time and it was Canada who took the honours. Canada had always been the highest placed CONCACAF team previously too, with 2 runners up medals and a 3rd placed finish in ’93 when New Zealand were runners up as invited guests from outside of the federation.
In 2000 the tournament became the Gold Cup and was won by the US, as well as 2 more victories for them in 2002 and 2006.
CONCACAF Member Nations:
Antigua and Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
United States of America
U.S. Virgin Islands
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