CONCACAF Nations League debuted last week during the September international window, and the results were all over the map. As we know, the United States Men’s National Team, along with Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras, were the only teams that did not begin Nations League play in September. Those teams will make their Nations League debut during the October and November international windows.
With Nations League serving also as qualification for the 2021 Gold Cup, as well as determine who directly qualifies for the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying (thus increasing their chances of making the World Cup), these matches are super important for several teams. If the Hex started today, the USMNT, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras, and El Salvador would make up the field, with the next four left out being Panama, Canada, Curaçao, and Haiti. However, with Jamaica and Honduras currently playing in League B, teams can make up ground on them by doing well against better competition in the region. It all makes for interesting storylines as Nations League progresses. Let’s take a look at each League and how it shapes up after two matchdays.
League A play was dominated in September by Canada, who beat Cuba twice, 6-0 at home and 1-0 “away” in the Cayman Islands. They’re the current leaders of Group A, with a big match against the USMNT next month in Toronto. Group B was the surprising results, with Panama beating Bermuda 4-1 away in Matchday 1 and then losing 2-0 to Bermuda 4 days later. Panama is on top of Group B currently on goal differential, but they’ll need to play better next month when they travel to take on Mexico.
Group C saw two draws between Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago, making this group up for grabs. Honduras enters the fray in October. Group D play was marred by the death of Curaçao goalkeeper Jarzinho Pieter, who died of a heart attack the day before their second match against Haiti. They decided to play the match and went on to draw Haiti. With their win over Haiti in Matchday 1, they lead Group D with 4 points.
What does this mean for the USMNT? They’ll want to begin play with a big win against Cuba and then clip Canada in Toronto 4 days later. If they do that, they’re in excellent shape to win the group and qualify for the Nations League Finals.
The League A standings after two matchdays:
Many people aren’t keeping track of League B, but they should. The winners of the 4 groups not only will be promoted to League A, where they could face the USMNT, but they will also qualify for the 2021 Gold Cup. Also, with Jamaica and El Salvador in League B, they will be forced to do well to maintain their positioning as 2 of the top 6 CONCACAF teams in the FIFA World Rankings, which would see them qualify for the Hex. Jamaica smoked Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana in its first two matches, while El Salvador beat Saint Lucia St. Lucia and lost to the Dominican Republic. That loss could affect its chances of making the Hex, but only time will tell if they can recover.
Belize got things started in an interesting way when they were unable to travel to French Guiana for their opening Nations League match due to logistical problems associated with Hurricane Dorian. They were forced to forfeit that match. They then lost to Grenada, which leaves them needing some wins quick if they want to qualify for League A or the Gold Cup.
For those who want the USMNT to have more island matches, League B is full of them. Currently, Grenada, Montserrat, Jamaica, and Suriname are the group leaders, but teams like St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Dominican Republic are within striking distance. It will be interesting to see who can make the leap to League A from these groups.
The current League B standings:
League C is currently comprised of the minnows of CONCACAF...and Guatemala. Why is Guatemala in Group C when they have routinely fell just short of the Hex in previous World Cup qualifying cycles? Their federation was suspended by FIFA in 2016, and because they were still suspended when Nations League qualifying started, they were not allowed to participate. They were reinstated after the qualifying draw, so they were placed in League C by CONCACAF. They are much better than League C and it showed when they pummeled Anguilla 10-0 and then smashed Puerto Rico 5-0.
The confederation showed a lack of compassion when they forced the Bahamas to continue with their home game against Bonaire in the aftermath of several islands being completely destroyed by Hurricane Dorian. Though the match was held in Nassau (which was relatively spared compared with some of the other islands in the archipelagic nation), the thoughts of everyone was on the recovery efforts. The Bahamas somehow summoned the strength to play and beat Bonaire 2-1.
The Cayman Islands, which served as Cuba’s “home” venue when they played Canada and will again in November when they host the USMNT, join the Bahamas, Guatemala, and Guadeloupe as League C group leaders. The rest of the League C standings:
CONCACAF Nations League reboots next month, and the USMNT will look to get off to a roaring start. A lot will be determined over the next two months. Hit the comments to discuss CONCACAF Nations League fever!