Monday, August 4, 2008

Nations Cup Expansion

Nations Cup is a biennial football tournament, held for the CONCACAF national teams of Central America (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama).The tournament started in 1991 and it doubles as a qualifying event for the Gold Cup. These bigger tournaments have had guest teams’ play in them. The guest teams make tournaments more exciting in group play and have a much wider appeal. Guest teams let you gauge how your nation stacks up against other top nations in other Confederations. . The Gold Cup favored guest teams because they were trying to build the Gold Cup in its infancy. Brazil and Columbia each were invited 3 times to the Gold Cup which added legitimacy to the tournament as a top competition.
CONMEBOL only has 10 nations and they invite 2 nations to participate in their Championship. The 2 nations bring the participants to 12 teams so 3 groups of 4 teams are set up. Every tournament needs 4 team groups. Group of 4 teams has proven to be the best format. CONCACAF’s Gold Cup finally changed to this format in 2005 which proved successful. Cope America last play the round robin style in 1991 and changed to the 4 teams groups after.
The majority of the Nations Cups have been round robin play and a winner was crowned just like the earlier Copa America Cups. However Nations can fall behind early and interest wanes in a round robin tourney. Group play has you team playing at least 3 games before the thrilling knockout stage. There is a build up of excitement before group play begins. This has proven to be the best format.
The UNCAF Nations Cup is rotated amongst the 7 nations so no one nation has an advantage. The tournaments (Copa America and Nations Cup) are rotated around their respective regions. This creates interest in the respective regions and has proven to be successful.
The UNCAF tournament now creates an odd group of 3 teams in the preliminary group stage. I think it is time to add a team that would complete the odd group. The Cope America Cup and the Gold Cup each have added nations to spice up their field to create interest. It is time the Nations Cup follows suit.
The problem is who you invite. You do not want a team like Brazil that would dominate the tournament at one end and you do not want a team that would be cannon fodder either. You want a team that is equally as good as the top Central American powers. The desire would be to have a team that would create interest and enhance the tournament. You want a nation that could become a rival to some of the Central America nations. You would want a nation that is similar to the Central American nations.
UNCAF does not have to look any further than the Caribbean nations. The Caribbean region competes within CONCACAF with UNCAF nations. The Caribbean teams play Central American teams in World Cup Qualifiers (WCQ). They also play them in the Gold Cup. There is already a history and this rivalry can be enhanced.
The Nations Cup should invite the 5th place finisher from the Caribbean Cup. The 5th place finisher would complete the odd group of 3. The regions could gauge how their teams stack up against each other. Then you could have 5 teams from this tournament advance to the Gold Cup. This would still guarantee 4 Central American teams advance. The 4 teams that made the knockout stage and the 2 3rd place teams could compete for the last Gold Cup spot. This would give both regions a shot at placing 5 teams in the Gold Cup. This would also increase interest to the Nations Cup with another vitally important game.

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