The Gold Cup, the Caribbean and US domination
I don’t know if it is because Jamaica qualified for The Gold Cup final for the 1st time, becoming the 1st 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.
Apart from Canada, who one could say is a part of the USA, only Mexico has been able to win the cup since its inception. One should also remember that a state in USA is actually called New Mexico and towns like El Paso, Texas are practically Mexican. This has even been famously recorded in songs. A closer look at the past CONCACAF tournament, as it was called back then, reveals that USA never won it before 1991 when it was changed to “Gold Cup” and hosted almost exclusively by the US in the US.
The CONCACAF tournament 1st started in 1963 with Costa Rica beating El Salvador. Then Mexico beat Guatamala in 1965, Guatamala beat Mexico in 1967, Costa Rica beat Guatamala 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 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 3rd to narrowly miss out on the 1990 World Cup.
It is to note that no fixed hosts were set for the final 2 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 is Costa Rica in 1969. So, in all, 4 hosts have won the old CONCACAF tournament out of 8 times it was played with a fixed host before it became “The Gold Cup” hosted by the USA, making that a 50% ratio of hosts winning. This is in contrast to the World Cup where only 6 times the hosts have won out of 20, which is a mere 30% ratio. It is clear then that in CONCACAF, the host has a 50% chance of winning, yet, since 1991, the Gold Cup has been played exclusively in the USA except for 2 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. Again, if you check the records before the change to “Gold Cup” hosted almost solely by USA, that is, when it was the CONCACAF Championships 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 who made it to the final in the period before the Gold Cup.
It is also to note that the Netherlands Antilles made it to a semi-finals, coming in 3rd in both 1963 and 1969 with T&T 4th in 1967 and 1989. Since then, that is, since the Gold Cup era, it has been much more difficult for the Caribbean teams with, as said before, only Jamaica going to a final. Jamaica also came in 3rd in1993 and 4th in 1998 while T&T and Peru tied for 3rd in 2000 as the best results for the Caribbean since this era.
So, in closing, it is clear to this writer 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, as I am sure would have been the case in 2015 if Jamaica had hosted it.
-Nicholas Alexander is a Jamaican freelance journalist, educator and writer. His poems, interviews and articles have been featured in local and international papers and journals.