Thursday, November 02, 2006

CONCACAF grows up

This is really good news:
No guests in next year's Gold Cup, say CONCACAF

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - No guest teams will be invited to take part in next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, the organisers said on Tuesday.

CONCACAF -- the North, Central American and Caribbean Football Confederation -- said on their Web site that 12 teams would take part in next June's event, all of them from within the region itself.

"We have seen over the past decade a significant rise in the standards and successes of CONCACAF nations," said CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer.
"So now it is time for two more of our countries to be able to compete in the finals of the Gold Cup, as one more step towards raising their game to a new level.

"As the Gold Cup was in its infancy and early growth, guest teams played a very welcome part in the success of the Gold Cup and its awareness throughout the region and, then, the rest of the world.

"Now, like all continental championships, except the Copa America, the Gold Cup is for us alone."

Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, South Korea and South Africa have all taken part recently.

CONCACAF said that this time Mexico, Canada and United States would qualify automatically. They will be joined by five Central American teams and four from the Caribbean.

The tournament will again be held in the United States, which has hosted every Gold Cup since 1991 either in its own right or as co-hosts with Mexico.

The competition began in 1963 as the CONCACAF championship and was held on a two-yearly basis until 1971 when Mexico, the region's major power, began to lose interest.

The tournament ceased to be played and from 1973 until 1989, the winners of the region's World Cup qualifying tournaments were simply declared CONCACAF champions.

The tournament was re-launched as the Gold Cup in 1991.

Although it has been held on a regular basis since, it has still struggled to find its place in the international calendar with many countries, including the guests, fielding below-strength teams.
Next step is to host it somewhere other than the US, although I've heard rumours of one of the groups being hosted in Canada in the future.

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