MIAMI, Florida – Concacaf’s decision to introduce the Concacaf Nations League has been warmly received by players far and wide in the region, especially throughout the Caribbean.
Players and teams from the islands that previously only saw action every four years during Concacaf World Cup Qualifying are now benefitting from regular competitive matches and the results of the groups in League B and League C reflect that in full.
Look no further than Grenada, who took top honors in Group A of League B with a 4W-2D-0L record. Grenada started 2018-19 CNL Qualifying with a 10-0 defeat at Curacao, but then closed qualifying with two wins, laying the groundwork for their successful campaign in League B, earning the Spice Boys promotion to League A and their first Gold Cup berth since 2011.
Another nation that emerged in the 2019-20 CNL was Suriname, who finished in first place in Group D of League B to qualify for the Gold Cup for the first time in history. Suriname also boasted arguably the breakout star of the CNL in FW Gleofilo Vlijter, who scored an astounding 10 goals to lead all players in all Leagues.
Twelve of the 13 teams making up League C hailed from the Caribbean and the improvement of all teams was on display last fall.
In Group A, Barbados survived an incredibly difficult group that included Cayman Islands, a rapidly improving Saint Martin plus a tough U.S. Virgin Islands team. After winning just one of three matches in CNL Qualifying, the improvement of Barbados was there for all to see, as they scored 14 goals in six games and remain in the hunt for a first-ever Gold Cup.
It was a similar story for Bahamas. A 0W-1D-3L record in CNL Qualifying proved to be valuable in terms of experience. Bahamas applied the lessons learned from those four qualifying matches and parlayed that into a first-place finish in Group B of League C with an unbeaten 3W-1D-0L record against rivals Bonaire and British Virgin Islands to advance to the Gold Cup qualifiers.
In CNL Qualifying, finding the back of the net was a struggle for Guadeloupe, with just three goals in their four matches, resulting in a 1W-1D-2L record.
Suffice to say, in the time between CNL Qualifying and the start of Group D of League C, Les Gwada Boys found their scoring boots, pouring in 20 goals in just four games as they topped the group with a perfect 4W-0D-0L record against Turks and Caicos Islands and Sint Maarten.
Guadeloupe’s last Gold Cup appearance came in 2011, but with League C leading scorer Raphael Mirval (7 goals) leading the way, a return to the tournament could be in the cards.