KINGSTON - Concacaf’s new confederation-wide tournament has received a ringing endorsement from key members of Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz.
The newly-launched Concacaf Nations League, which kicks off in September with the qualifying phase, will be played among all 41 members of the sub-continental grouping when league placements have been finalized.
Jamaica captain and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake unhesitatingly gave the revolutionary tournament the proverbial thumbs up.
“I think it is a great tournament and I can’t stress enough how good it is and definitely something to continue to build on as this will no doubt create the opportunity for more talent in the region to get scouted.
“I think it is a stepping stone and a great opportunity, especially for the smaller islands and I am pretty sure, like us, they are looking forward to it and hopefully they will make the best of the opportunity,” the 27-year-old told concacaf.com.
In the qualifying round, the number one ranked Caribbean team Jamaica is drawn to face Cayman Islands in the September FIFA window to kick-start their campaign.
The Boyz will then face Bonaire away in October, then welcome Suriname in November and will close out the qualifying stage against El Salvador in the official March 2019 calendar window.
Blake, the most outstanding goalkeeper at last summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup where Jamaica were beaten 2-1 in the final by hosts USA, said his country will take no opponent lightly irrespective of pedigree.
“I think despite what names get drawn to play against us, it is still going to be tough and there will always going to be pressure, but if you want to be one of the best, you will have to be able to cope under pressure,” he said.
Louisville FC defender Shaun Francis thinks the Nations League will create a solid platform from which the smaller nations of the Caribbean can announce themselves to a bigger audience.
“With this tournament and all the Caribbean teams that will be participating, this will create the platform for these players to be seen, and there will be opportunities for these players to play in places like in the US, as it is more likely that US teams will be paying more attention to this tournament,” stated the former San Jose Earthquakes standout.
Francis, 31, says he stands ready to help Jamaica become a dominant force in the tournament, which will be contested in three leagues - A, B and C - at the end of the qualifying play-offs.
“When it comes to this tournament, Jamaica will be going out there to be the top team as we will try to maintain our standard of being the best team in the Caribbean,” he noted.
DC United striker Dane Kelly, 27, thinks the Concacaf Nations League will serve as a launching pad for greater things for the competition-starved nations of the Caribbean in particular.
“I think it is great because the more games Caribbean countries play it’s better for the growth and development of their players at home and overseas.
“When you look at Jamaica, for example, you can see that we are rebuilding our team with a lot of young guys, and a league like this will be good for us in exposing these players,” said the former Reno 1868 man.
All three players are in Jamaica as part of their team's friendly international against Antigua and Barbuda, which is the official start to both nations' preparations for the Nations League qualifiers.