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Concacaf gives major boost to Gold Cup with new format and first ever draw

Concacaf Gold Cup

Concacaf has announced an exciting new format for the 2021 edition of the Concacaf Gold Cup, and the introduction of a first ever draw for the prestigious regional tournament.

The new set-up for Concacaf’s flagship competition will include a Preliminary Round prior to the 16 team Group Stage. The Preliminary Round will include 12 Member Associations competing for the final three spots in the Group Stage. It will be played as a direct elimination format, from July 2nd to July 6th, in a centralized location in the United States.

Additionally, a major change to the Knockout Phase, which follows the Group Stage, will see teams on opposite sides of the bracket meet from the Quarterfinals onwards. In previous Gold Cups, teams have only competed against opponents on the same side of the bracket until the Final. This change will provide more unpredictability and excitement to the competition, which was expanded from 12 to 16 teams for a hugely successful 2019 edition.

As part of the Confederation’s focus on continuing to deliver a football first philosophy, and to add more anticipation for fans across the region, a first ever Gold Cup draw will take place on September 28th, 2020. Both the Preliminary Round and the Group Stage will be drawn at the event, further details for which will follow in the coming weeks.

An initial 12 teams booked their place in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Group Stage, which will commence on July 10th, 2021, through their performances in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League (CNL).

They include the winners and runners-up in CNL League A groups, and the winners of CNL League B groups, including Canada, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, Grenada, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Suriname and USA.

The 12 teams will be joined in the group stage by AFC Asian Cup Champions, Qatar, who will compete as a guest as part of a major collaboration between Concacaf and the host country of the FIFA World Cup 2022™.

Gold Cup Preliminary Round

The Preliminary Round will comprise the 12 national teams who qualified through their CNL performances, including the third placed teams from League A groups, the second placed teams from League B groups, and the winners of League C groups. Those teams are Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

After a knockout format involving the 12 national teams, the remaining three teams at the end of the Preliminary Round will qualify for the Gold Cup Group Stage.

Concacaf partnership with Qatar Football Association and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

Concacaf and the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) longstanding relationship, which was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in May 2017, has resulted in various joint initiatives which have served to greatly develop football in both regions.

The MOU established a framework for strong collaboration between both Confederations and paved the way for a strategic partnership between Concacaf, the Qatar Football Association (QFA) and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organization charged with delivering the infrastructure and operations for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

This partnership will bring huge benefits to all levels of the game across the entire region. It will also provide a strong link, and multiple knowledge sharing opportunities, between the organizing bodies of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and the FIFA World Cup 2026™, which will take place in the Concacaf region.

The partnership includes the Qatar National Team competing as a guest in the 2021 and 2023 Gold Cups. The Qatar team is the current regional champion, having won the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Additionally, the team participated in the 2019 Copa America in Brazil, providing strong opposition for South American national teams in the group stage.

Qatar will be the second AFC national team to compete as a guest in the Gold Cup, following South Korea who played in the 2000 and 2002 editions.

“The Concacaf Gold Cup continues to grow as a competition and we are hugely excited at the prospect of the 2021 edition, particularly as it falls in the Confederation’s 60th anniversary year,” said Concacaf President and FIFA Vice President, Victor Montagliani.

“A new format which provides more excitement for fans allows us to build on a very successful 2019 edition, which included competitive football and great stories. I also believe that having a draw for this competition is a long time coming and fits with our objective to be a truly football first organization. It will provide great anticipation for fans as they look forward to the return of international football in our region.

“We know from last year’s Gold Cup, and the compelling inaugural Concacaf Nations League group stage, that the standards of men’s international football continue to rise in our Confederation. I am very confident we will see more of the same in the new Preliminary Round for Gold Cup 2021. With the matches scheduled so close to the group stage it will be a highly competitive and entertaining set of games and I can’t wait to see it unfold.

“We also welcome a new guest in the Qatar National Team. As the AFC Asian Champions, they will provide stern opposition for Concacaf teams. The partnership we have entered into with the QFA and SC will be game-changing for the development of football at all levels in our region. It will also provide a great opportunity to share knowledge in a number of areas between the host of the FIFA World Cup 2022, and the region which will host the event in 2026. On behalf of all Concacaf Members I would like to place on record my gratitude to the AFC, and the QFA and SC for their commitment to collaborating and working with us on these important football partnerships.

“After such a challenging time for communities across the region and the world, we hope the return of international football, and the prospect of another great Gold Cup, can provide some hope and enjoyment for fans starting with a great draw event next month,” added Montagliani.

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President and Senior FIFA Vice President, said: “On behalf of the AFC and the entire Asian football family I would like to thank the Concacaf President and FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani and all the Concacaf Members for the invitation that they have extended for the AFC Asian Champions, Qatar, to play in such a prestigious tournament as the Gold Cup.

“When the AFC and Concacaf signed their Memorandum of Understanding in May 2017 we saw the obvious opportunities for both Confederations to help and improve each other both in terms of performances on the field – of teams, players and match officials as well as operations staff – and, just as importantly, the continued development of the game across our Continents.

“Already AFC and Concacaf match officials have enjoyed the experience of controlling matches in different continents with different styles and now Qatar, the Asian Champions, can continue their own knowledge of international football following on from last year’s AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 as well as the Copa America. We are sure everyone will benefit from Qatar’s presence in the competition.”

Qatar Football Association President, H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani, said: “The Concacaf Gold Cup is a prestigious tournament and we’re thrilled Qatar has been invited to compete in the 2021 and 2023 editions. Qatar’s participation in the tournament next year takes place just 17 months before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicks off so it will be a great opportunity to help further prepare the national team ahead of their opening World Cup match on 21 November 2022. Winning the 2019 AFC Asian Cup marked an important milestone in our development plan, and so we head into the Gold Cup confident that we can compete with Concacaf’s best teams. We look forward to the competition.”

Concacaf, the QFA and the SC will also develop and deliver a major football development initiative as part of the partnership which supports the growth of the game at grassroots level in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It will include a significant focus on community coach development which can benefit thousands of young people across the Confederation. This will build on the excellent work Concacaf has already undertaken through its Next Play Program, and the hugely impactful Generation Amazing legacy project delivered by the SC.

SC Secretary General, H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, said: “Generation Amazing is our flagship human and social legacy programme that uses the power of football to create sustainable social development in communities around the world. Since it was launched in 2009, when Qatar was bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, it has positively impacted the lives of more than 500,000 around the world.

Looking to the future and the further expansion of this important legacy project, we are excited to announce this strategic partnership with Concacaf’s own development programme, to ensure the growth of both our initiatives and deliver a greater impact on the lives of even more people, in even more countries. Most importantly, this partnership will help ensure a sustainable, lasting tournament legacy in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, well after the last ball is kicked in 2022.”

Al Thawadi added, “From a footballing perspective, it will be great to see Qatar’s national team take on some of the world’s best when they meet in the 2021 edition of the Gold Cup, ahead of their historic participation on home turf at the FIFA World Cup 2022.”