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‘Nations League finally feels real’

Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda interim coach, is excited about the prospect of regular games after the Concacaf Nations League qualifying draw yesterday

Bermuda will face Sint Maarten and El Salvador at home and play away matches against Aruba and Dominican Republic to determine the groups for the inaugural Concacaf Nations League next year.

Bermuda will open their qualifying campaign away to Aruba in September before facing Sint Maarten and El Salvador at home, in October and November. They will close out the group stage with an away tie against Dominican Republic next March.

All matches will be played during Fifa international dates and will determine the composition of the three divisions for Nations League, which starts in September 2019.

Mark Wade, the Bermuda Football Association president, who attended yesterday’s draw in Miami along with David Sabir, the BFA general secretary, said the league will offer exciting marketing and revenue opportunities for the island.

“This new concept has been 18 months in the making,” he said. “Already the players are excited, some of them were able to watch the draw online. We’ve already started to discuss what arrangements we need to make.

“I just stepped out of a working group where we were going over the different requirements of host and travelling nations, the financial implications as well as the marketing and revenue opportunities for Bermuda.”

Kyle Lightbourne, the Bermuda interim coach, is looking forward to the prospect of regular, meaningful international fixtures.

“It’s exciting, an opportunity for us to finally put something in place and to be able to build,” Lightbourne said. “You have no excuse. If Concacaf is serious about improving football in this region then this is what is needed.

“Players have jobs, but that’s going to be a problem for every single country, except those players who are professional. I still don’t think some of the [Bermuda] players realise what it’s going to be, so maybe now we’ll find that players feel this is something for them. I’d imagine there are going to be players who want to be involved and will get themselves in shape.”

For the draw, teams were divided into four pots, based on the Concacaf Ranking Index, with pot A containing the top eight ranked teams, pot B — including Bermuda — the next nine teams, pot C the next nine nations and pot D the bottom eight teams.

The qualifying results will be compiled into an aggregate table, ranking the participating teams from 1 to 34 based on points earned, goal difference and a series of additional tie-breakers.

The table will be used to divide teams into Leagues A, B and C for the first full edition of the Nations League.

The top six teams will join the six World Cup Qualifying Hexagonal Round participants in League A, the next 16 teams will qualify for League B, and the remaining teams will be assigned to League C.

The top ten finishers in the final table will also join the six World Cup Hexagonal Round nations in the 2019 Gold Cup, which has recently been expanded to 16 teams.