Sat | Apr 29, 2017

Vary hosts for Gold Cup

Published:Wednesday | August 12, 2015 | 8:00 AMNicholas Alexander

I don't know if it is because Jamaica qualified for the Gold Cup final for the first time, becoming the first Caribbean team to do so, but it somehow struck me that the tournament's structure is quite unfair, not just to Jamaica, but to all other teams except the USA.

Since 1991 when it was created, the Gold Cup has been hosted by the USA. In fact, it is 'their tournament', created by them; but especially looking at the records, it now seems unfair and extinct.

Only Mexico has been able to win the Gold Cup more times than the US since its inception. A closer look at the past CONCACAF Championships, as it was called back then, reveals that the USA had never won it before 1991 when it was changed to the Gold Cup and hosted almost exclusively by the US. Now they have won it five times!

The CONCACAF tournament first started in 1963 with Costa Rica beating El Salvador. Then Mexico beat Guatemala in 1965, Guatemala beat Mexico in 1967, Costa Rica beat Guatemala in 1969, and Mexico beat Haiti in 1971. After this, it became the World Cup qualifying tournament for the region, played every four years, a year before the World Cup. In 1973, Haiti beat Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) to famously qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Then, in 1977, Mexico won over Haiti, while Honduras beat El Salvador in 1981.

In 1985, Canada topped Honduras to qualify for the 1986 World Cup. This takes us to 1989 when Costa Rica topped USA, with T&T coming third to narrowly miss out on the 1990 World Cup.

No fixed hosts were set for the final two tournaments before the 1991 change, as teams battled home and away to qualify for the World Cup, as they do now in the normal qualifiers. Before this, though, it is interesting to look at the trend of winners and hosts. Honduras won at home in 1981, as did Mexico in 1977, ,and Haiti in 1973. The other team to win as hosts was Costa Rica in 1969.

So, in all, four hosts won the old CONCACAF tournament out of eight times it was played with a fixed host, before it became the Gold Cup hosted by the USA, making that a 50 per cent ratio of hosts winning. This is in contrast to the World Cup, where the hosts have won six times out of 20, which is a mere 30 per cent ratio.

It is clear then that in the old CONCACAF tournament, the host had a 50 per cent chance of winning, but since 1991, the Gold Cup has been played exclusively in the USA, except for two times when it was co-hosted with Canada in 2003 and 2015, and Mexico in 1993.

This is probably why no Caribbean team, before Jamaica in 2015, had made it to the Gold Cup final - and, even then, it was seen as a minor miracle.

 

check the records

 

Again, if you check the records before the Gold Cup, when the CONCACAF Championships were hosted by various nations in the region, Caribbean teams not only went to the final, but they won it. In 1973, Haiti beat T&T in the final hosted by Haiti. The next time it was played, in 1977, Haiti lost to Mexico when it was hosted by Mexico.

Before this, in 1971, Haiti lost to Mexico in the final hosted by T&T - to round out the list of Caribbean countries that made it to the final in the period before the Gold Cup.

It is also of note that the Netherlands Antilles made it to a semi-final, coming in third in both 1963 and 1969, with T&T fourth in 1967 and third in1989. Since then, that is, since the Gold Cup era, it has been much more difficult for the Caribbean teams.

Jamaica also came in third in 1993 and fourth in 1998, while T&T and Peru tied for third in 2000 as the best results for the Caribbean since this era.

So it is clear that the Gold Cup should, if it is to be a viable CONCACAF decider, be hosted by various territories, even if it is mostly still hosted by the USA. What can happen is that every other tournament could be hosted by a different nation, with the USA hosting or co-hosting with Mexico or Canada in the next. Maybe then, with some Caribbean teams hosting it, we'll see a Caribbean winner again.

- Nicholas Alexander is a Jamaican freelance journalist with All Sports Jamaica. He is also an educator and writer. His poems, interviews and articles have been featured in local and international papers and journals. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and baggiothegenius@yahoo.com.