MIAMI, United States, CMC – The winners of this year’s CFU Caribbean Cup have been guaranteed a spot in the 2016 Centennial Edition of the highly regarded Copa America, as part of a historic collaboration announced by CONCACAF here Thursday.
For the first time, six CONCACAF teams will participate in the South American championship that features the likes of giants Brazil and Argentina, along with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, in a 16-team field.
Also, in another historic move, the tournament will be played in the United States, marking the first time it will not be played on South American soil. A Local Organising Committee will be set up shortly to begin advanced planning, and to also initiate the process by which host cities will be determined. “In 2016, CONCACAF and the [South American Football Confederation] will unite the American continent with 16 national teams playing on new soil,” CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb announced here Thursday, while seated alongside his South American counter-part Eugenio Figueredo.
“Celebrating its Centennial anniversary, Copa America in 2016 will have unprecedented significance in the history of sports. It will be the biggest international sporting event that the United States have hosted since the 2002 Winter Olympics and the biggest football event since the 1994 World Cup. “There is no question that some of the world’s best talent will be on display.”
This year’s Caribbean Cup champions will gain automatic qualification for the tournament, and will be joined by hosts and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup champions United States, and six-time Gold Cup champions Mexico.
The winner of the 2014 Central American Cup will take the fourth spot while the top four finishers in next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup – excluding Mexico, the US, the CFU champions and the Central American champions – will enter a four-team playoff to determine the last two spots. “I congratulate CONMEBOL (South American confederation) for inspiring players and fans throughout a century of fantastic football, and thank them for extending the legacy of this hugely successful event to CONCACAF territory,” said Webb, also a FIFA vice-president.
This year’s Caribbean Cup finals are scheduled for November 9-18, in the Jamaica west coast seaside resort town of Montego Bay. Cuba are the reigning champions after beating Trinidad and Tobago in the 2012 finals, staged in Antigua and Barbuda.
Gordon “Banks” Derrick, president of the CFU, told CMC Sports the new initiative would be a massive boost for regional football, pointing out that the Caribbean Cup would now take on added significance. “I am very excited. I am so happy about this announcement. It just provides another avenue for us to play at the highest level with the top teams so there is really a carrot now in front of every national team,” said Derrick.
“So it is now just not the World Cup and the Gold Cup but now you have this one coming in 2016. I think this version of the Caribbean Cup is going to be even more off the hook. We have set the dates to correspond with the international dates so every single country should have their top team.
“I think it was divine intervention that it was done this way because teams now have the opportunity to really assemble themselves, get their best teams and have a real shot at winning the Caribbean Cup because if you win, not only will you go to the Gold Cup but you will also get the chance to play in this momentous tournament.”