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CONCACAF Gold Cup: Squad Exemption for the USA Worth Debating


CONCACAF ‘s oddities have struck once again. The Confederation that has done some odd things through the years (most notably the re-branding of the entity as the Football Confederation about ten years ago) has once again done something that seems from the perspective of someone who watches a lot of football, quite odd.

The decision to allow a special exemption for the US add seven players just two days before the tournament begins is bizarre. This allows the USA to carry a squad of 30 players while the other 11 qualified nations carry a 23 man squad. Additionally, the US is permitted to shuttle players back and forth between their club sides and the national team under this newly adopted rule which preceded the tournaments kickoff by under 72 hours.

I love this event that gives smaller nations, who are never going to qualify for the World Cup an attempt to qualify for this tournament. Haiti’s one World Cup appearance in 1974 is likely to be their last, but the Caribbean nation has now qualified for consecutive Gold Cups for the first time ever. Grenada has qualified for the first ever Gold Cup this year and it is great to see the island nation with several familiar names in a meaningful tournament.

It is also great to see Nicaragua long the doormats of Central America qualify for this tournament over Guatemala who is missing only their second Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup gets a bad wrap from football fans in the United States. No it is not the European Championships or the Copa America but it is our continental championship. Smaller nations as noted above put a great deal of emphasis on qualifying and when countries like Haiti or Nicaragua qualify it’s a big deal for those nations and their football federations.

I think that CONCACAF having spent lots of money promoting this event is risking losing the bi-annual payday. Mexico is sending a “B” squad much as they did in 2005 and the United States has called a squad reflective of the difficulty the USSF faces fielding competitive teams in two successive tournaments during the European/Mexican closed season.

CONCACAF was probably frightened by the prospect of lets say a Panama-Costa Rica final? Can you blame the Confederation for wanting to avoid this given the fact that the final will be held at 77,000 seat Giants Stadium?

But the other side is simple: Why should the United States be allowed to add seven more players all of whom participated in the Confederations Cup when Canada for instance didn’t call up several of their best players in deference to their club side? Honduras also has called a mixed squad of regulars and youngsters up for this tournament.

Had this rule change been adopted before the US participated in the Confederations Cup it would have been much more credible. The United States group opposition and potential knock out stage opposition could have prepared accordingly. The CSA for example could have struck a deal with Toronto FC to call in Dwayne DeRossario for knock out stage games, by naming him to the tournament roster but allowing him to stay at BMO Field for the time being.

Additionally, Bob Bradley who is under intense pressure to perform and juggle players in two tournaments and their club commitments could have prepared better for both events by naming a squad of players that initially incorporated the additional players. Mexico, knowing the situation could have made a decision whether or not to call such an inexperienced squad based on knowing that the US as reigning CONCACAF Champions would have seven extra spots.

I am a firm supporter of the Gold Cup. Unlike many other football fans and pundits I see a lot of value in the tournament. But truthfully, the Gold Cup worked much better as a January/February event which it was in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002. It didn’t conflict with the MLS season and the Mexican League generally made provisions to release their players for the competition.

If CONCACAF wants to continue having the tournament every two years perhaps they should shift it back to February as it was for years. Sure this would eliminate some top European based players (unless FIFA mandates their clubs release them as they do for the African Nations Cup) but would eliminate these scheduling issues with other tournaments, including the Copa America which Mexico will compete in again in 2011.

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  1. nicolas ismael

    July 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I was very surprised to see how haiti played well and even dominated US team. before the match, although from haiti, I said: the ball is a cercle for all the other team except Haiti and Grenada for which the ball will be oval.
    I was sad to see how haiti that used to be the top rank after mexico in that zone goes diminishing. Fortunately, US coach for the reason that reason it self ignores presented a B selection before haiti which Haiti almost beat up, then the match was over,but in EXTREMIST US team tied the game at 91e minute.
    To me, if the coach was a true coach, haiti would have beanten US by more than 4 gols. Haiti has more 4 players over 30 years of age while US team is young formation, why the coach did not make two or three changes when one knows two players from the A selection in the US camin in to back up hteir team which was loosing ground. didn’t the haitian coach know about Davies and the other player Beckernan? didn’t he understand about fatigue of 34, 33 and 36 years old players? does haiti only have 11 players? what about killing the time while 2 or 3 minutes were remaining to play? I think he did watch mexico vs. Panama, he would certainly know how to act allowing Haiti to win that game.
    By the way, if mexico played the same as it played before Panama, Haiti would caress a chance to beat claim BINGO for the first time , then haiti only beats Mexico since 1959, only once!
    However, it will be verey difficult as much as the last match against Guadeloupe testifies everything about the mexican tean waking up for the best. Further, in Dallas Texas, mexico will have another 12e player with them, the FANS!
    anyway, the only final 90 minutes will say the rest

  2. James Lagrange

    July 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Great website. I also love the Gold Cup. Every 2 years is needed for CONCACAF minnows. It keeps the national teams going and that is the goal.
    We all know the Yanks have a huge advantage playing on home pitch. Now they get a ridiculous benefit to carry 7 more players. This will keep the entire team fresh as the tourney goes. There were only a handful of players that came from S Africa that need ……..the rest on original roster was in the same boat as other teams. The rest of the players did not need any rest. This ruling is a joke…..The Gold Cup is starting to lose its legitimacy…

    Warner will not play tournament in winter. Winter will eliminate the Northern Markets were games will be played. Imagine Gillette Stadium, Soldiers Filed, Giants stadium in January or February! The tourney could only be played in the south and Warner wants to maximize income at these “Big Market” Cities. Sorry no dice.

  3. Jeff

    July 3, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Agree with Lars and Kartik.

    CONCACAF has made this tournament a joke by allowing the US to add 7 players to their roster that can stay with their clubs until “called in” and by allowing Mexico to add Guille Franco as the tournament begins. It seem like CONCACAF will bend or even rewrite rules to benefit the two superpowers in the region.

    FSC is a joke, but we knew that already. CONCACAF however is showing that $$$$$ is still all Jack Warner cares about.

  4. Lars

    July 3, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    So does hosting it in the same country year after year after year. It’s not like Mexico and Canada don’t have venues to host it. And most Central American countries have at least one venue where they could host games. They could hold joint Gold Cups…

  5. adam

    July 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Look I’m all for our boys but having seven extra spots spent on player allowed to stay fresh and in form by playing at the club level gives an inherent unfair advantage to the USA. Really it makes the event a joke.

  6. soccer goals

    July 3, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Conor Casey should return to Colorado.

  7. football league

    July 3, 2009 at 1:47 am

    The NFL’s ultimate disciplinarian, Roger Goodell, has some awfully tough decisions to make with disgraced stars. Gregg Doyel puts on his commish hat and offers a simple test to determine punishments.

  8. Seybold

    July 3, 2009 at 1:43 am

    This will only feed the paranoia of Canada, Costa Rica, and all the rest regarding a preordained USA-Mexico final. At this point it’s hard to label it paranoia.

    It’d be better to have this tournament every four years to make it a truly big deal, and rotate the location. Why not Canada? Mexico? The Central American countries combined? Caribbean countries combined? That would make it into an event, the way the Euros, Copa America, and African Nation Cup are. It never has the same feel here. USA-Grenada in Seattle? Boring. In Costa Rica or Jamaica, it might be well worth watching, and would do a MUCH better job of preparing USA players to dealing with hostile crowds.

  9. eplnfl

    July 2, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Love the Gold Cup and I’m really good with the schedule of it. Playing in the summer months lets all the US and Canada to be able to host games.

    Can’t say I mind having B teams either from the US and Mexico. The player pool for the big 2 is large when it comes to CONCACAF play. It also gives the youngsters a chance to play.

    The Gold Cup is a good third leg of our “summer of soccer” here in the US. Sounds like a good title for a book about how soccer has burst onto the American sports scene. Anyone want to write it? I’ll help!

  10. Lars

    July 2, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Bullshit that hurts the smaller CONCACAF teams. They just want the US and Mexico to be successful because that’s where the money is at.

  11. quakesin2kNever

    July 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Gold Cup needs to be a four year tournament. Agree strongly with Berlin. Nobody cares about it. It would make twice the money in TV revenue if it were a four year tournament b/c it would be more important. Instead, the final world cup qualification results end up being the real bragging rights for who is the best team in the group.

  12. Berlin

    July 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    For the love, make this a four year tournament instead of a cash cow.

  13. Jammer

    July 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Totally lame. This will taint any American success. They should give every team the same options.

  14. PZ

    July 2, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Lemme see now, they’ve known for how long that the Confed Cup would finish a week before the Gold Cup started? Ok, no one thought that the US would make it to the final but wooh, a two week break is so much better than a 1 week break.

    Here’s an idea, why not piggy back on the African Nations Cup and move the Gold Cup to the FIFA dates already on the books for that?

    Then again, how many of the Gold Cup squad were in Africa?

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