Gold Cup future up in the air
The Bermuda football team’s attempt to qualify for the Concacaf Gold Cup this summer could be their last opportunity to do so, as the competition’s future has come under doubt as to whether it will continue beyond 2021.
Bermuda are in a strong position to reach the Gold Cup and face Dominican Republic at the Estádio Olímpico Félix Sánchez in Santo Domingo in their final Concacaf Nations Cup qualifier next month.
Coach Kyle Lightbourne’s side are seventh in the standings, with the top-ten teams qualifying for the biennial competition.
Positions one through six automatically qualify for Nations League A and the Gold Cup, while positions seven to ten qualify for Nations League B and the Gold Cup.
Carlos Cordeiro, the United States Soccer Federation president, has been reported as questioning the future of the Gold Cup and said that the Fifa Confederations Cup has been axed.
“[The Confederations Cup] is done and over with,” said Cordeiro, speaking at the US Soccer annual general meeting in Orlando, Florida.
“In place of Confederations Cup there will be intra-continental play-offs to get to that 48-team [World Cup].”
The Confederations Cup was introduced by Fifa in 1997 and from 2005 onwards served as a warm-up tournament for the host nation of the World Cup. However, the competition never fully captured global attention in the international calendar.
Cordeiro’s suggestion that the Gold Cup could face a similar fate will come as a disappointment to many Concacaf federations, including Bermuda, whose aspirations do not realistically go much farther than this competition.
“The Gold Cup is only legislated for this year and 2021, so it could go on but it may not happen,” Cordeiro added.
However, Mark Wade, the Bermuda Football Association president, said he had not been officially notified of any imminent changes to the Gold Cup.
He also said that Cordeiro’s statements were very much his own and more exploratory to any final decision on the tournament’s future.
“Concacaf is committed to the Gold Cup until 2023, so the statements by Cordeiro are of discussions that he is privy to which would be preliminary and not final,” Wade said.
The acknowledgement by Cordeiro was somewhat unexpected as Concacaf expanded the tournament from 12 to 16 teams for the 2019 competition. The ruling body has also announced that it is exploring staging matches outside of North America. Since 2000, the tournament has featured 12 teams, but in an effort to have a more pan-regional footprint and bigger revenue streams, Concacaf decided to expand the competition’s format.
Concacaf and Conmebol, the South America Football Confederation, has discussed revamping the Copa America into a bigger and more lucrative tournament, but those talks have repeatedly broken down.
This year’s Copa America, hosted by Brazil, will have 12 entrants with Qatar and Japan as invitees.
“There have been talks in the last year between Conmebol and Concacaf on a kind of combined Copa America, but they have not been able to come to an agreement on that,” Cordeiro said.
He also weighed in on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, has incessantly been pushing for an expanded 48-team format and Cordeiro cited “strong forces” that want to enforce the format, but admitted that Qatar alone will not be able to handle the logistics of a 48-team finals.
“There are forces — strong forces at Fifa — who wanted to go up to 48 as quickly as 2022, including the president,” Cordeiro said.
“Qatar has accepted that they don’t’ have the facilities. They have eight stadiums, but that’s not enough to run a 48-team tournament. They would have to agree to share with countries that are not the most friendly these days.”