Rotating 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 3 games. I say let Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador host group play consisting of 4 teams. Costa Rica could host the other quarter, semi and Finals. This allows 4 Central American countries host at least 6 games.
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. 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).
Olimpico Stadium, 45,000
San Pedro Sula, HondurasThe 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. Costa Rica badly beat the Yanks 3:1 while Honduras matched the score 3:1 against Mexico. El Salvador also beat Mexico 2:1 at Cuscatalan Stadium. The home venues will give all the Central American nations the advantage the Yanks have had sine 1991 when the Gold Cup started. 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. If there was a favorite is would probably be the host nation in each group. This would create a much more competitive Gold Cup than any previous tournaments. This would show the dept that CONCACAF has acquired over time.
Honduras has close to 8 Million people who consider soccer the number 1 sport they follow. Honduras could host a group in 2 stadiums in 2 different cities (San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa). Each game will be a double header just as it is now in the States. Olimpico Stadium in San Pedro Sula holds 45,000 and is a great venue built in 1998. San Pedro Sula is considered the industrial capitol of Honduras and the venue has natural grass. 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 6 group games (double header). These 2 cities would pack their stadiums for Gold Cup Central America.
Cuscatlan Stadium, San Salvador
El Salvador has a country of close to 7 Million people. This is a very proud soccer nation that reached 2 World Cups. They have not regained that stature since. 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. They have made great strides is both their domestic league and national team. They had a historic 2:1 victory over the Titans of CONCACAF Mexicoin 2009. They also beat regional power Costa Ricaback to back for the first time in history. 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 the games would be close to each other logistics sould 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 4 years between Gold Cups. This country of over 13 Million would be energized if they knew they would be hosting 6 Group stage games for the Gold Cup. The federation and fans would be eager to show off Guatemala and Guatemala soccer to the rest of CONCACAF. I know I looked ahead every 2 years to the Gold Cup with excitement it brings. Guatemalans would feel that they too have a chance to win this tournament.
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. Fans like these would support the national team throughout the country.
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 these fervent fans. Advancing in the Gold Cup would show the nation and its fans that they too have advanced in soccer.
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. Hosting would provide tremendous exposure to each domestic league. The fans of each country deserve to have to opportunity to host the regional Championship on their home field. Rotating the Gold Cup out of the States would legitimize the Gold Cup. The home field advantage that the Yanks have had would be eliminated. The Groups also would be more balanced. Mexico and the USA would be “equal” contestants in this Gold Cup. With no favorite in Gold Cup Central America it would create a wide open tournament. This tournament also would be much more exciting. We should not see favorable official calls go in favor of Mexico and the Yanks like in the past.
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 more equal playing field. The groups would be much more balanced. This will created interest in the region and throughout CONCACAF.