Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rotating the Gold Cup

Rotate The Gold Cup

Each and every Gold Cup has been hosted or co-hosted by the USA. Everyone knows that there is a huge advantage of playing on your home pitch. Reviewing the past CONCACAF Championship and Gold Cup we can see that the home team has won 9 out of 12 Championships. There was no tournament so no home field advantage applied in 1985 and 1989 years. We can clearly see the advantage a host team benefits from. This factor alone should be enough to rotate the Gold Cup around the CONCACAF region.

The problem with rotating the Gold Cup is the lack of attendance other nations would have when hosting. The reason why the CONCACAF Championship was cancel was because of this reason. We can also look at the past UNCAF Cups and the Caribbean Cups. UNCAF 2005 in El Salvador was a very poorly attended tournament. Stadiums were empty. UNCAF 2007 was better in Tegucigalpa but only when the host played. When Los Catrachos played there was a tremendous turn out of about 20,000 in attendance. However when the host was knocked out there was under 2,000 in attendance.

The important 5ht place finish between Guatemala and Nicaragua only 150 people were in attendance. CONCACAF has to guard against this huge drop in attendance.
CONCACAF is in a Catch 22 situation here. So I have a solution. Why doesn’t CONCACAF let the region of Central America host the Gold Cup? This would not be one country hosting but 4. This would solve the problem of poorly attended games. This would also provide great exposure to the region. The countries could show off their national stadiums. The fans would be treated to the best soccer in the region and finally the regional tournament would be rotated outside of the USA.

Each Central American country's population is only the size of a US state on average. Guatemala, El Salvador Honduras and Costa Rica are roughly the size of New York, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia respectively. Gold Cup "Central America" would be like playing it in 4 Mid Atlantic states. If we can fly 12 teams across America for every game we could certainly have 4 teams stay in one country for 4 games. I say let Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador host group play consisting of 4 teams and quarter final game. All the host country has to do is qualify (8 of 12 make it) for the knockout round to host. We could have the top team from each group play the lowest host nation. Costa Rica could host the other quarter final game, 2 semi-final games and the Final.

This action would be good for a number of reasons. First it would provide great exposure to the host country and its national soccer league. Each host country would be showing off its city, its national stadium and its proud national team. The cities would be draped in the countries flag to gives it’s fans a sense of nationalism. This would be great to see. Soccer is by far the number one sport in each of these countries and they deserve to host the regional event.
I say event because there will be such a big build up before the game. The local media will be competing how their presentation stacks up against the other Central American hosts. The media will point out that this is a historical event since it would be over 30 years since the regional Championship has been hosted in Central America (Honduras last hosted in 1981).
The groups would also be more balanced. The USA and Mexico are always a clear favorite in the Gold Cup now. However in Central America the playing field will be much more equal. The USA luckily tied El Salvador in Cuscatlon Stadium in World Cup Qualifying 2009. Honduras just beat Mighty Mexico 3-1 in Tegucigalpa. The Central American teams will be much more comfortable playing on their home pitch in front of their home crowd. We would probable crown a Champion that is not from North –North America for the first time in Gold Cup history. This would show the dept that CONCACAF has acquired over time.

Honduras could host a group in 2 stadiums in 2 different cities. The fans from that part of the country will only have 2 chances to see their national team play. Each game will be a double header just as it is not in the States. Olimpico Stadium in San Pedro Sula holds 45,000 and is a great venue built in 1998. Andino Stadium in Tegucigalpa holds 35,000 could be the other host city in Honduras. The local media angle would be that the last CONCACAF Championship was hosted in Honduras and Honduras won that event. They have a very strong domestic league and a very good national team. Honduras could host 3 group games (double header) and a quarterfinal. These 2 cities would pack their stadiums for Gold Cup Central America.

El Salvador
El Salvador has a country of close to 7 Million people. This was once a proud soccer nation that reached 2 World Cups. They have not regained that stature since; however hosting the Gold Cup would be a huge step to rejuvenate the fans of El Salvador. El Salvador would be a great pick to host a group and quarter final also. Cuscatlan Stadium in San Salvador has tremendous fan support. This stadium holds over 45,000 and the stadium rocks when the national team plays there. There was not an empty seat in the most recent World Cup Qualifying match against the Yanks. Gonzalez Stadium also located in the largest city of San Salvador holds 25,000. Since both games would be close to each other logistics would not be a problem.
Guatemala was recently knocked out of Gold Cup 2009 by upstart Nicaragua. This is a shame for this passionate nation of fans. Now Guatemala fans have to suffer through another 4 years with out a World Cup spot and another 2 before the next Gold Cup qualifications comes. Knowing they would be hosting a group play and quarterfinal would create a buzz in the entire nation. The country and fans could look ahead with anticipation to the next Gold Cup they would be co-hosting.

Flores Stadium in Guatemala holds over 30,000 passionate fans. These fans gathered 5 hours before the World Cup Qualifying against the USA. I believe if we play group play in 2 different stadiums the fans will come out again to support their national team. Guatemala City would be draped in the national colors and the Guatemala flag would be everywhere.
Stadium Progreso holds 17,000 and this could be the other venue for 2 games (double header games). It would be great to see these stadiums packed with fervent fans. This would increase the level of intensity of the Gold Cup.

Costa Rica
Costa Rica has the best infrastructure of any Central American nation. The Tico’s have always produces quality national teams. Costa Rica could host the other quarter final the semi-final and final game. They (Costa Rica) would be sure to make the knockout round when playing it in Central America. Costa Rica will also have a brand new national Stadium that is set to open November 2010. This $83 Million dollar stadium will be the show piece of Gold Cup Central America in 2011.

This region has given CONCACAF quality teams and it is time to pay them back. Each Gold Cup game (double headers) would be close to capacity to circumvent empty stadiums. By having the host have 2 venues will also increase fan attendance. This would provide tremendous to each domestic league. The fans of each country deserve to have to opportunity to host the regional Championship on their home field. Statistically we can see the advantage playing on your home field. The regional tournament has to be rotated to create fairness to this competition. By playing the tournament in Central America would provide a much greater "equal" playing field. The groups would be much more balanced. This will created interest in the region and throughout CONCACAF.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Guadeloupe Soccer prowess

Guadeloupe is an overseas department of France that has about 405,000 inhabitants. As part of France, Guadeloupe is part of the European Union. The island is one of five territories of foreign nations that play as associate members of CONCACAF. Guadeloupe residents carry French passports and therefore are eligible to play for the French national team. To take the field for Guadeloupe a player or his parents must have been born in Guadeloupe and cannot have played for Les Bleus. A special rule of the Gold Cup only allows players to join the team if they haven't played for France during the last 5 years. This rule also applies for Martinique and French Guinea. The “Capitol” of Guadeloupe is Basse-Terre.

Guadeloupe has played a very high level of consistent soccer from 2006 until now. The Caribbean Cup 2006 they reached the semi-finals thus qualifying them for their first ever Gold Cup. This was the first Caribbean team to advance to the final four since Trinidad & Tobago did it in 2000. The 2007 Gold Cup they also reached the semi-finals losing 1-0 to regional power Mexico. The 2008 Caribbean Cup they again reached the semi-finals. They top the 2006 Caribbean performance by placing 3rd in 2008 by beating Cuba. They have preformed very well in each of these tournaments. They have excellent form and can create on offense.
The island also had the most fans of any Caribbean Cup venue during the Caribbean Cup 2009. This is surprising since they are only a small island department. This indicated the Gwada Boys take their soccer seriously. The Gwada Boys play their home games in Stade René Serge Nabajoth (stadium) that holds 7,500 people. They Gwada Boys return to the Gold Cup for the second time in a row.
Guadeloupe does have a domestic league on the Island. The Fist Division has 14 teams. The bottom 3 teams are relegated to a lower division while 3 teams are promoted. The Club teams of Guadeloupe can participate in CFU Club Championship or the CONCACAF Champions League. They have not participated in over 10 years.

Their main rival is fellow French department Martinique. Martinique has already participated in the Gold Cup 3 times and we can say the quality of play has shifted between these two rivals.

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is a small island country in the Caribbean Sea. It is made up of the large island of Trinidad and the much smaller island or Tobago. Tobago only is 10% of the total geography. The Capitol is Port of Spain a very large city. It is the wealthiest independent Caribbean country, boasting a high standard of living and high literacy rates. The island nation considers soccer their number 1 sport. Since the wealth of the country they have a good domestic league with a few foreign players playing on each team. Guyana is the most prevalent nation Trinidad and Tobago draws from.

The (Soca Warriors) has dominated the Caribbean Cup winning 8 out of the last 14 Cups. The Soca Warriors have been the best Caribbean team over the last decade. They also have players in the top European leagues. They play a great tactically sound team. They have qualified for the Gold Cup a Caribbean record 7 times. Their best performance was is 2000 when they made the semi-finals losing to eventual Champion Canada is a tight game.

When we examine Trinidad and Tobago national record we have to remember Trinidad and Tobago host the most tournament of any CONCACAF nation. Jack Warner sees to that. These tournament are youth tournaments, regional tournaments or other soccer related tournaments Trinidad and Tobago outpaces everyone.

Their Top domestic League is called TT Professional League. They league has 10 teams in the top league. They have a second division called the Super 6 made up of 6 more teams. They have 1 team (Defense Force) in the Port of Spain that has 18 titles. They play in Hasely Crawford Stadium (picture here recently remodeled with new seats) which they share with Jabloteh FC and the National team for Trinidad and Tobago. Since the club is composed of the Trinidad and Tobago's protective forces, they are named Defence Force F.C. Usually included are officers, soldiers, and sailors from the Trinidad and Tobago Army and Coast Guard. Defense Force has not won a title since 1999.
The next beast is a team is Port of Spain city is in the town of San Juan. This club is San Juan Jabloteh F.C. Jobloth F.C. won the last Championship and has only 4 Titles. Joe Public is Warner’s team that plays in the town of Arouca also located in Port of Prince. The top league was made semi-professional in 1996 and entirely professional in 1999. This small league translates into a powerful national team. Trinidad and Tobago is a soccer mad nation that loves their sport.

Their main rival is Jamaica.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The developement of Nicaragua soccer

Nicaragua is the largest state in Central America with an area of 130,000km (the size of England or slightly smaller than the state of New York). The population is the 4th largest Central American population topping out at 5.89 Million people. Since the land is so big they are the least densely population in Central America. The capitol is Managua which is also the Largest City. Nicaragua has a beautiful Caribbean Coast to its East and the Pacific coast on the West. Nicaragua borders Honduras to its North and Costa Rica to its south. Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, only Haiti is poorer.
Nicaragua is better known as a baseball-playing nation. Nicaragua with five runner-up finishes in the Baseball World Cup. Nicaragua did not even try to qualify for the World Cup until the USA hosted the World Cup in 1994. We can see that hosting the World Cup can influence even other federations with in your own confederation. Football is catching on with they younger generation. Nicaragua national football team just earned its first major soccer honor when it qualified for the Gold Cup by beating Guatemala 2-0. It was Nicaragua’s first victory over Guatemala, a former Central American champion, in 17 tries.

There is a new scene of optimism now with in Nicaragua. Recently Fifa has committed $10 Million to develop the domestic leagues in CONCACAF. There are 11 nations that will split this money over 2 years. The money is supposed to develop the Domestic league. It is also will invest into each club to make the leagues more competitive. The clubs in turn have to show some progress in developing its youth system. This is not a lot of money however when you have no money any money is huge.

The top domestic league is called Primera Division of Nicaragua. It has 10 teams. The league does have regulation with 2 teams dropping to a lower league. Nicaragua does have a dynasty in Diriange FC. Diriange FC play in the City of Diriamba. Diriamba is a mountain town located on Nicaragua West coast. Diriamba is about 1 hour from Managua. Diriange FC is a 26-time Nicaraguan league champion and they play in the second largest stadium with a capacity of 7,500. Diriange FC chief rival is six-time champion Real Esteli. Real Esteli plays in their own stadium Estadio Independencia that holds 4,800. Presently there are 8 teams that can match Diriange FC on the field. The national team use to be mostly comprised from Diriange FC players but now they come from many different clubs.

Last year Real Esteli was representing Nicaragua in the CONCACAF Champions League. They could not play any games with in Nicaragua since no fields meet FIFA regulations. The University has donated land for the national team to build a soccer stadium that will meet FIFA requirements. FIFA paid the first phase that cost $1.2 Million dollars. The artificial field was installed in March and the first phase will have 3,000 spectators. This would allow a Club team like Real Esteli to host a Champions League game on Nicaraguan soil.

This land donation and the building of a “National Stadium” is the biggest boost Nicaragua soccer has ever received. This action will be a huge boost to the league and marketing for the Nicaraguan top league. The stadium would also provide a field for the selected national team to practice before the start of the Gold Cup 2009. The construction is 3 phases and the completed project is supposed to hold 30,000 spectators and complete in four years. Nicaragua is in a very early stage of being consistent competitors with the rest of Central America but they will be the most improved nation over then next few years.

If a nation could be Nicaragua rival it would be Panama. They have won 4 games while losing 11 against Panama. This is the best record Nicaragua has against any nation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The State of Guatemala

The Republic of Guatemala has the largest Central American Population topping out at 13 Million people. Guatemala is slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee. The country is mountainous, except for the south coastal area and the northern vast lowlands of Petén department. Most of Guatemala’s population is spread out throughout the central part of the country in the mountain region where the climate is more comfortable. Guatemala City is in a mountain valley in the south central part of the country. There are many major cities like Escuintla, Quezaltenango, Puerto Barrios, Retlahuleu, Cobán, Chiquimula, Mazatenango. Guatemalans has the most stadiums at roughly 42 in Central America. They are followed by Honduras which has 32 stadiums. The people of Guatemala consider soccer their countries number 1 sport.

The Liga Nacional de Futbol de Guatemala is their top Domestic league. This league had 10 teams but in 2008-09 season the league expanded 2 more teams. This currently brings the League to12. Currently there are 2 tournaments one in the spring and on in the fall. The 12th team is relegated to the Primera Division. The teams finishing 10th and 11th in the final standings enter into a two-legged playoff with the 2nd and 3rd placed clubs of the Primera División de Ascenso, respectively. The playoff winners play in the top division while the losers spend the next season in the second division. The Primera Division has 20 clubs broken into 2 Groups. Winning the Liga is considered the highest honor in Guatemala. The winners of the Spring and Fall season get to represent Guatemala in CONCACAF Champions league.

Liga National has 2 power houses in Municipal and Comunicaciones and both of these teams play in Guatemala City. Municipal has 26 titles while Comunicacions has 22. Club Aroba is a distant 3rd with only 8 Championships. The soccer power is not confined to Guatemala City. None of the other teams presently in the Liga are located in Guatemala City. They are scattered throughout the regions of the country.
Guatemala has a very competitive national team also. The nickname is Los Chapines and their high-water mark was in 1967 when the team won the CONCACAF Championship. Their most recent international Championship for the senior side was 2001. Los Chapines won the regional UNCAF Cup. They were also runner up 4 times to this Central American Championship.
Their best performance was in the Gold Cup was in 1996 placing 4th. This is the team I expect to compete with the elite in CONCACAF but I am still waiting.
They recently crashed out of the World Cup Qualifying in 2008. They pounded Saint Lucia 9-1 aggregate in the second round. They were then placed in a very formidable group with the Yanks, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba. They ended with 1 win, 2 draws and 3 ties. This was not enough for advancement.

They consider Mexico their main rival since they border each other.

· Guatemala Guatemala is divided into 22 departments (departamentos) and sub-divided into about 332 municipalities (municipios).
· On October 16, 1996, minutes before a 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification match between Guatemala and Costa Rica was to take place, at least 83 people were killed and more than 140 injured as an excessive number of fans attempted to enter the General Sur section, creating a human avalanche into the bottom of the stands, which is separated from the field by a fence
· Guatemala is heavily centralized. Transportation, communications, business, politics, and the most relevant urban activity takes place in Guatemala City. There is only one highway that traverses the greater communities of the country. Some coastal towns are accessible only through the coast by boats.

The State of Honduras

I am a big fan of the World Cup however it comes every 4 years. Since I am a yank fan the Gold Cup kind of help me get through the 4 years. I wish the Gold Cup was a little more interesting so I started examining the other nations. Most CONCACAF nations are extreamly poor compared to the states. This limits their abality to compete against yanks, Mexico and Costa Rica. However nations can still turn out good teams and I wanted to know why some can and why some can not.
Here is my Honduras report....
Honduras has a population at about 7.79 Million people the second largest in Central America. The Capitol is Tegucigalpa located in the middle of the country. The Choluteca river physically separates Tegucigalpa and its sister city Comayagüela. This is similar to Boston and Cambridge that is separated by the Charles River.
Despite this they have a very good football federation on the domestic and national level. Honduras made one World Cup in 1982 Spain. This was their high water mark for international soccer success. A recent high point was the 2001 Copa America Cup. They beat Bolivia and Uruguay in group play and beating Brazil in quarter Final. They placed in 3rd place in the Copa America 2001. Their international Championships success was 2 Nations Cup Championship coming back to back in 1993 and 1995.
Honduras, while a very poor country defies the odds, has a tremendous soccer Federation. The highest league Liga National of Honduras has 10 powerful teams. This league has relegation to a second tier league which has 24 teams currently. The second tier team also has regulation to a 3rd tier league that has over 60 more teams competing. This country has the deepest league with relegation within CONCACAF (except Mexico) and this translates to a good National Team. The winner of Liga each season is considered the highest honor and each winner gets to participate in the CONCACAF Champions League. There are 4 teams we hear about in Honduras. Olimpia and Montagua both play in the largest City and Capitol, Tegucigalpa. They both also share Estadio Tuburcio Carias Andino which has 36,000 fans for capacity. Olimpia is the Titan of the Honduras Soccer leagues with 21 Championships almost twice as many as the next. Their inner city rival (Montagua) has 11 Titles. Their chief rivals (Real Espana and Marathon) play in the city of San Pedro. San Pedro is located in the upper northeast area of the country and is considered the industrial capitol of the country. This City is the only city in Honduras to have 3 soccer stadiums. Marathon 7 Titles plays in their own Marathon Stadium that holds 10,000. Marathon stadium is brand new in 2009 and is the only club built stadium in Honduras. Their inner city rival Real Espana (9 Titles) plays in Estadio Maralles that holds 20,000 spectators.
Estadio Olympico the largest stadium in Honduras and it holds 45,000. This stadium was only built in 1997 for the Central American Olympic Games. This is the training facility and the location where the national team plays. Marathon will occasionally use this large stadium for big games.
These inner and intra city rivalries have raised the passion and interest in the game in Honduras. It is like what the Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers did for Basketball in the states.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Panama Fan

Panama is a Central American Country that borders Columbia, south America to it's south. Costa Rica is it's northern border. The country is known for its Canal but it has turned into a business center for international trade and the canal has a lot to do with it. Panama City is the Capitol and largest City. Panama has close to 3.36 Million people which is the 6th largest (2nd smallest) population in Central America.

Panama use to be known for its boxing and baseball. However living between south America and costa Rica soccer has taken over as the countries top sport. Panama federation recently started their own domestic league in 1988. (MLS started in 1996). The league has grown and there are now 10 teams in the top division which has regulation. The league has 2 tournaments. The team with the fewest combined points from the Apertura and Clasura in the calendar year is relegated to the Primera A, and the winner of a 4 team playoff is promoted from the Primera A. Primera A has 8 teams also with relegation to Tier 3 which has 21 teams presently.

This expanding league has created interest and has also help fees a talented national team. The national team won it;'s first international tourament in the UNCAF 2009 Cup in Honduras. The Canalero shocked Honduras in the semi-finals, then they beat perentil power Costa Rica.

They are looking forward to win the regional Gold cup.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Best CONCACAF fans

This is my favorite picture of a USA fan along side a Guatemala Fan.


Post your best CONCACAF fans here

Honduras Fans Below

USA Fans Below

McCane and Obama--------Subway supporters----

Panama Supporters Below

El Salvador Fans

This El Salvador fan got dressed up and is enjoying Cuscatelon Stadium.
Costa Rica Fans

They have a great national team and great fan support
Tico Supporters ............................Costa Rican beauty..............................Tico couple

Mexican fans

.............3 Amigos ......................................Big Mexican ...............................shades

Mexico suporter....................................................... Beauty .......................................Aztec

Trinidad and Tobago fans below
The Warriors fans were easy to find on internet!

T & T beauty ...........................................Warner under hat?....................Beauty

This fan is hanging out!!!!!