1. Trinidad and Tobago 2. Panama 3. Canada
The Tier 2 nations are always my favorite to do. This year I am adding 2 team to this group to make 6 nations. Honduras has graduated to Tier 1 but El Salvador and Cuba has joined this prestigious group. Here is how I rank each nation. Remember I am looking at World Cup Qualifying, the Gold Cup and then either the Nations Cup or the Caribbean Cup to rank the national teams. Then I will take a quick look at the domestic and see how it stacks up against other domestic leagues. I am making my judgment on the representative performance in the Champions league.
The top team in Tier 2 goes to the Soca Warriors of Trinidad and Tobago. I have not been a huge fan of Warner and that has affected my judgment of this great little soccer playing nation. Soca Warriors have participated in the last 3 hexagonal campaigns which is more than any other team in Teir 2. They also qualified for 1 World Cup Germany 2006. This aspect alone places Trinidad and Tobago on top of Tier 2. Trinidad and Tobago has also qualified for 7 of the last 10 Gold Cups. They have also dominated the Caribbean winning 8 of the last 14 Cups.
They also have a competitive domestic league. Joe Public is Warner’s team that plays in the domestic league. The Trinidad and Tobago team Defense Force has 2 CONCACAF Champions Leagues titles to boast about. These titles came back in 1978 and 1985. Most recently 2 Trinidad and Tobago club teams made the group stage in 2009-10 Champions League. San Juan Jabloteh and W Connection.Trinidad and Tobago gets the top spot in Tier 2 because of their consistent strong national team and Club teams.
Panama remains my second slot because the region of Central America is much better than the Caribbean region. Panama has to battle Costa Rica, Honduras and now El Salvador and Guatemala in the Nations Cup. Panama however has only qualified for 1 Hexagonal campaign out of the last 4. They came in dead last in Hex-06 with no wins 2 draws and 8 losses. They also had a -17 goal differential. This is what is keeping them out of Tier 1. They have had a bad overall record in the Nations Cup however thing are changing in Panama. They have qualified for the last 3 Gold Cups in a row. They even made it to the final in 2005 losing to the host. They won the last UNCAF Nations Cup in 2009 beating their rival Costa Rica in the Final. They also made it to the UNCAF final in 2007 losing to regional power Costa Rica. This strong showing of the national team places them second in Tier 2. They have recently investing $19 Million to refurbish their national stadium. Their domestic has been very poor for decades but there has been a huge upturn in both the national team and the Domestic league over the last 10 years. Tauto has the most Titles with 7. Arabe Unido is this years Champions League 2009/10 participant. They beat Honduran titan Olimpia in the Preliminary round. They surprised everyone by getting by MLS power Houston Dynamo and El Salvador rep Isidro Metapan.
Canada is my third team in Tier 2. I can only judge the national team by their performance in the Hex and the Gold Cup since they do not participate in UNCAF or Caribbean Cups. Canada has only made one hexagonal campaign out of the last 4. That campaign was in the 1998 qualifying and they came in dead last winning only 1 game. They have faired much better in the Gold Cup. They have qualified in 9 out of the last 10. They made the finals and won once in 2000. They made the semifinals twice in 2002 and 2007. They play very well in the States against the other CONCACAF teams.
They have built a national soccer specific stadium in Toronto called BMO Field ($65 Million) which opened in April of 2007. Canada does not have a domestic league but has Toronto FC and now Vancouver Whitecaps (2010) play in MLS. The Montreal Impact is also a very successful team in Canada. They had the most fans of any team during the 2009 Champions League topping over 50,000 in a league game. Toronto FC continues to be a leader in attendance for MLS. Even though they do not have the top team in MLS fans support their club in Toronto.
El Salvador make the jump from tier 3 last year into the 4th spot in Tier 2. Los Cuscatlecos have made the Hex 2 of the last 4 cycles. The beat Panama in the preliminary round then got by both Haiti and Suriname in the semi-finals. They were in the last Hex and had a very good showing for themselves. They beat both their top regional rival Costa Rica and Mexico in Cuscatlon Stadium. El Salvador was 8 losses and 1 tie since 2003 against Costa Rica. The last 2 games whey won in the important World Cup Qualifying and Gold Cup matches. These were 2 significant victories for El Salvador against their regional power, a team they could never seem to beat. These victories are what propelled El Salvador into this group.
The have also participated in the Gold Cup 6 of it 10 times. They have not faired that well playing in the States. Their domestic is evolving and we are getting more exposure to the teams in El Salvador. What we do know is that there is more of an equal distribution of talented teams like Mexico and MLS. They do not have a few dominant teams like Honduras and Costa Rica. This should keep the competition going in El Salvador.
Jamaica remains in Tier 2. They remain here after a strong showing in World Cup Qualifying. They beat Mexico, Honduras and Canada in World Cup Qualifying. They also had an outstanding Caribbean Cup winning the 2008 Caribbean Cup Championship. Jamaica is one of the top Tier 2 teams because of the hardware. They have won the Caribbean Cup 4 times of the last 13 Cups. Since 1990 they are the only other Caribbean nation (besides Trinidad) to quality for a World Cup spots this coming in France 1998.They have qualified for the Gold Cup 7 of the 10 times. Jamaica however underachieved in the last Gold Cup 2009. They team had plenty of talent but floundered and did not mount a cohesive attack. This is the reason I place them behind El Salvador.
They have a competitive domestic league however there is no dynasty like other nations. This makes for great seasons have new faces in the Championship. A very popular team is Harbor View.
Cuba moves up out of Tier 3 to join this very competitive group in Tier2. I consider Cuba one of the 3 powers in the Caribbean. There is over 11 Million people who live on this island nation. It is to bad there players will defect when they play abroad. I believe this is the reason why they back out of the last Gold Cup. Players would have left the team and the nation politically looks bad. They have qualified for the Gold Cup 6 of the last 10 Cups.