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.

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