Saturday, March 26, 2016

Caribbean Cup 2016


                This tournament will again act as a qualifier for the 2017 Gold Cup. The top 4 teams will get a bids to the tournament while the 5th place nation will enter into a playoff game against the 5th place Central American Cup finalist. This playoff is a great idea in the fact it creates more interest between the 2 regions.
                The Draw: 4 teams were given byes (T&T, Jamaica, Haiti and St Vincent and the Grenadines)
The first round :  The odd thing about the draw was that Group 1 has the 3 highest ranked teams (that did not get byes) A&B , St Kitts and Aruba in the same group.  A&B is in the drivers seat with a 1-0 over Aruba. However anything could happen here with these teams.
Group 2: Grenada should cruise to an easy win here over US Virgin Islands and lowly Sint Maarten. Anything else will be a big upset.

Group 3: Another  quality group with Caribbean power Cuba, the rich Bermuda nation and the South American participant French Guiana. Cuba has the advantage with one win Bermuda in Havana.                            Unfortunately for Cuba they have to travel to South America for their leg.  We could see a changing of the guards here.
Group 4: Dominican Republic, Barbados and Curacao. Ugggg. Barbados have been producing quality teams these last fee cycles, Playing the yanks in the last World Cuip qualification. Curacao (formally Netherlands Antilles) has that Dutch mentality and show technically sound teams. Barbados slipped by the Dutch island 1-0 and lead this group. Dominican Republic has the huge population of about 8 million and would make thing interesting if they could get this population behind their team.
Group 5 The South American nation of Guyana should battle Puerto Rico for top spot and both should get bye Anguilla. Nothing to report here. Hopefully Puerto Rico can incorporate their domestic team Puerto Rico inlanders players on the team and create interest on this heavly populated island.
Group 6 Both Guadeloupe and Suriname will beat Saint Martin.
Group 7 Martinique and Dominica will both get by British Virgin Islands. It is just a matter of who win the group.

The secnd round is where and when things get interesting.
Group



              

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Panama will host the next Central American Cup

UNCAF Copa Centroamericana logo.png

         The next Central American Cup will be held in Panama --Surprise - Surprise Surprise!
As you can see it is Guatemala's turn to host. Guatemala has not hosted since 2005 and Panama recently hosted in 2011. 



Year
Host
Champion
2003
Panama
Costa Rica
2005
Guatemala
Costa Rica
2007
El Salvador
Costa Rica
2009
Honduras
Panama
2011
Panama
Honduras
2013
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
2014
United States
Costa Rica
2017
Panama

              It seems that Panama's economy, influence and bid "package" was able to influence the bid committee.
          Neither Nicaragua nor Belize has ever host this regional tournament. If I was going to guess I thought it would be either Nicaragua or Belize. Then I would have had odds that Guatemala, El Salvador then Honduras would be next in line to host in that order. So what happened to "who's turn is it?"
   
        
Rommell Stadium  has had major renovations for the 2011 tournament. The Stadium now has a nice looking roof for many fans. The last Central American Cup Rommell hosted all the games. I don't see any change here.

The tournament will be 17–28 January 2017.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Canada should play in the Central American Cup

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The Central American Cup is lacking since it only has 7 nations playing in this nice little tournament.  7 nations create an odd group of only 3 nations. The group needs a 4th team to complete the group. I believe the Central American Cup should invite Canada to participate. This would finally complete the odd group. The odd group always created an advantage for the winners of that group. The winners, who advance only have to play 2 group games as opposed to 3 group games for the other group. Adding a 8th nation would create 2 groups of 4 teams and making for a nicer tournament.  This idea is good for Canada since they would get more competitive games, good for the Central American participants since they get an extra Gold Cup chance and extra competitive games and good for the tournament since it will complete the odd group of 3 and provide 2 brackets and draw more interest and excitement.

 Canada should offer their guaranteed Gold Cup slot as bait. Presently the CA Cup places the 4 top teams in the Gold Cup. The 5th place team (Honduras ) plays the 5th Caribbean Cup (French Guiana) team for the last spot. If Canada offered their spot, CA Cup would place the 5 top teams from the tournament directly into the Gold Cup.  
The tournament could have the top 2 teams in each group earn 4 slots for the Gold Cup. They would play in a knockout round for the Central American Championship so nothing would change here. The bottom 4 teams would also play in their own  knockout round. This is the huge added advantage of having 8 teams in this tournament. Every game becomes crucial. Group A 3rd plays Group B’s 4th place and Group B’s 3rd place plays Group a’s 4th place finisher. The 2 winners of the consolation knockout play each other for the last guaranteed spot. The Champion of this bracket now have something to play for. The winner receives Canada's guarantee Gold Cup spot. This creates so much more interest for this bracket. 
The loser of this consolation round would still get to play the 5th place Caribbean nations for the last spot for the Gold Cup. This will not change.

Good for Central American Teams
The arrangement would guarantee at least 4 competitive games for every nation which is badly needed in CONCACAF. The 4 teams would get 5 competitive games, and the other 4 team are guaranteed 4 competitive games.  Presently there are only 12 matches. Adding Canada would increase the total matches to 18 competitive games. The loser of the 3 team group only get to play 3  games and the nations fans are left empty. They have to wait 2 more years for this tournament. The loser of the 4 team group also only get to play 3 competitive group  games and does not participate in the 5th  place finish game. These less talented teams (Nicaragua, Belize and whoever) needs more games to get better. Adding an 8th nation would provide these badly needed games.
The top teams will not have a negative effect since they will still play in the knock out rounds, still get their guaranteed 4 spots for the Gold Cup and still crown a Champion for this regional tournament. I think if the Gold Cup and CONMEBOL Championship can add teams to increase the tournament then the Central American Cup should also. 


Good for Canada
            First of all Canada badly needs competitive national team games, especially before the Gold Cup. They just do not get enough. Playing in another tournament to warm up for the Gold Cup is a great idea. Playing against teams that are about your equal is even better. The Central American Cup is a perfect tournament that meet both these needs.  These teams are great with the soccer ball at their feet. They do not panic with the ball and are skillful dribblers. Canada was bigger, faster and more athletic however they need this type of competition to sharpen their skills. This tournament would provide 4 to 5 very competitive games that mean something. Friendlies against Iceland, Moldova and Bulgaria are just not the same.  

            As for the Gold Cup, Canada shouldn't just get an automatic bid; they should have to qualify for it. Entering the CA Cup would solve this issue. Canada did not advance out of the group stage in the 2011, 2013 and 2015 Gold Cup’s. This left Canada with only 3 competitive games for the year, for their national team. The 2009 Gold Cup was only one better they advanced but lost in the opening game of the knockout round, thus playing in only 4 competitive games. This give the Canadian faithful an empty feeling after only watching your national team play only 3 games. The Canadian fans had to wait 2 more years only to see their team fail yet again. The Central American Cup would be a great measuring stick as to how far your nation has advanced. t 
         The teams in the Central American Cup are almost the same teams they face in the Gold Cup. Playing in the Central American Cup as a guest would provide the Canadian faithful with a nice competitive tournament before the Gold Cup. Since Canada doesn't make the World Cup, a tournament like this would do great to raise the interest of the sport in Canada and improve the national team. Qualifying for the Gold Cup would draw more interest to the Canadian national team. 
            I think Canada should offer their guaranteed slot to the Central American Cup to entice the nations (tournament) to invite them.  As for those of you who say this is crazy, why miss out on the Gold Cup….I say if Canada cannot get at least 5th place in the Central American  Cup then they don’t deserve to go anyway.

This is how things could work. The top 2 teams in each group get the coveted 4 Gold Cups spots. These top 4 teams then play in the Championship knockout rounds, just like it is now. Tjhe winner is the Central American Champion.




Group A
Group B
Costa Rica
Honduras
Panama
Guatemala
Canada
El Slavador
Belize
Belize
              Lets say Costa Rica, Panama, Canada and Belize are in group A and finish that way. Costa Rica and Panama make the knockout round. Group B of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua finish this way. Honduras and Guatemala  proceed to the Championship knockout rounds. These 4 nations will get the 4 guaranteed spots for the Gold Cup. So nothing new here. 

What will be different and better; will be the bottom 4 teams will enter their own MEANINGFUL knockout rounds.  The winner will get Canada's automatic spot for the Gold Cup. The bottom 4 teams enter their own knockout round for Canada’s extra Gold Cup spot. Here is an example. Canada will play Nicaragua and El Salvador will play Belize and the winners play each other for the Canada's automatic spot.
This way all nations in this tournament will play a minimum of 4 competitive games and the 4 others will  get to play 5 competitive games. This increases competitive games for all most every team for this tournament. 

            Lets now say Nicaragua hosted the next tournament. Nicaragua would still have the fans at the games since they would be fighting for the last Gold Cup spot. This would or should increase attendance and interest to ANY host nation and their fans even if they don't participate in the Championship bracket. 

Bad for Canada: Not really

Now let's  Canada doesn't win the final of the losers bracket. They still have a chance to play in the Gold Cup by qualifying for the Central American v Caribbean playoff spot.  They would do this by losing in the Championship of the losers bracket.  This now would give Canada 5 competitive games in the Central American Cup and 2 more games in the playoff against the Caribbean nation 5th place finisher. Qualifying this way would be the best of all cases for Canada. Why?
Well First of all if Canada can not place in the top 4 of the Central American Cup, nor make the final of the losers bracket then you can be assured they could be losing these games in the Gold Cup against better competition. 
OK....you say! i make a good point but why is it the best. IT become the best since Canada would maximize their competitive games in the Central American Cup with 5 games and then have the huge advantage of playing 2 more games against a quality Caribbean nation like Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana or even Dominican Republic. This would give Canada 7 quality, confidence building games leading up to the Gold Cup. This would give the Canadian team such a huge advantage to work as a cohesive team and finally advance out of the group stage of the regional tournament. 

The worse case is Canada doesn't qualify as a top 4 Central American participant and lose the losers bracket against lowly Belize or Nicaragua. I don't think Canada would have advanced in the Gold Cup (only 3 games). So Canada would still play one more competitive game this year. That is the worse case. 
Every other scenario Canada benefits and that is why they should offer their automatic Gold Cup spot as bait to play in the Central American Cup.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rugby in the USA



Rugby in the USA

The Rugby World Cup just concluded and New Zealand beat Australia in the Final in England. There is a wide gap between the tier 1 teams and the rest. USA is definitely in the Tier 2.
http://usarugby.org/images/club/gu-map.png              

  Well starting from the top have the Rugby World Cup.  There have been 8 World Cups and New Zealand (all Blacks) have won 3, Australia and South African each have won it twice. Merry old England has won it once in 2003.  There are 10 Tier 1 nations presently. The Six Nations from Europe France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. The Tri Nations (New Zealand, Australia and S Africa) and Argentina. Then there is Tier 2 where the USA resides.  The USA is competitive but have a very long way to go.




New Zealand, Australia and South Africa
                 New Zealand, Australia and South Africa also play in the Rugby Championship every year. This is a home and away and best record claims the championship. This is a very competative  competition in the World and it happens every year.  Link below


England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. 
    The next biggest Rugby Competition is the Six Nations Championship. This is also an annual championship involving 6 European nations of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. They are all Tier 1 nations. France has the Top 14 club league, England had the Aviva Rugby Premiership, and then there is the growing Guinness Pro 12 with 12 teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Italy. The 6 nations Championship is played iin a home and away format. Some nations get 3 home games and 2 away.


Argentina, USA, Canada, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil
The USA national Rugby team is like their international soccer team. They have been growing but are second tier compared to the elite teams.  They get slapped around at the Rugby World Cups. They compete in the regional Pacific Nations Cup in 2013, 2014 and 2015. They placed 5th of 5 in 2013, 3rd of 6 in 2014 and 5th of 6 in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.  These nations included Fiji, Somoa, Tonga, Japan, Canada and USA. Starting in 2016 the USA will now play in the Americas Six Nations. This will be a yearly competition between Argentina, USA, Canada, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil. These nations are not as good as the Pacific Nations teams however this tournament will elevate the image of Rugby in USA. This tournament will be played at the same time as the European Six Nations Championship.  It will be home/away against one other nation like the 6 nations cup. This tournament will be good to raise the interest and visibility of the sport in the states.

USA semi-pro domestic league
The USA also has  Rugby domestic Leagues in its infancy. The top league presently is the USA Rugby League and it is a semi-professional league. The USA Rugby League only has 14 clubs. 

Regional leagues
These leagues are presently broken into geographical areas. The green is called the New England, Blue is called the Empire, Light blue is Eastern Penn, and brown (Virginia and Maryland is called Capitol and Florida is at the bottom right. In order for the USA national team to get better the players have to get groomed in these leagues. These leagues are always changing and growing which is a good thing. 

The Rugby Sevens is the other half of Rugby that the USA is much better at.