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Everything you need to know about the Concacaf Nations League

Mar 21, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; United States midfielder Jonathan Lewis (18) during second half of an international friendly soccer match at Orlando City Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

A new international competition will be contested among the Concacaf nations in the fall. 

The Concacaf Nations League begins in October, three months after the continental champion is crowned at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. 

All 41 of Concacaf’s members will participate in the tournament, which drew teams into four groups across three leagues on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. 

Since this is a new competition and there are plenty of moving parts to understand, we put together a brief below on what to expect from the Concacaf Nations League.

Qualification

The qualification process for the Nations League started in September and ended during the most-recent international window in March. Thirty-five nations played four games over the course of six months and were organized into a single table. 

The six best teams from Nations League qualifying landed in League A, and they also secured spots in 2019 Gold Cup field. 

Nations who landed from seventh to 22nd place were placed into League B, with the teams who placed seventh through 10th also earning Gold Cup berths. 

Teams No. 23 through No. 34 were placed in League C. The majority of those teams are island nations with small populations.

Draw 

Wednesday’s draw set the matchups for all Concacaf teams during the fall international windows. 

Twelve-team League A was divided into four groups of three teams, the 16 nations in League B were drawn into four groups of four and League C consists of one group of four and three groups of three.

Here’s how the draw played out: 

League A

Group A: United States, Canada, Cubs

Group B: Mexico, Panama, Bermuda

Group C: Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique

Group D: Costa Rica, Haiti, Curacao

League B

Group A: French Guiana, St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize, Grenada

Group B: El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Montserrat

Group C: Jamaica, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba

Group D: Nicaragua, Suriname, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica

League C

Group A: Barbados, Cayman Islands, Saint Martin, U.S. Virgin Islands

Group B: Bonaire, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands

Group C: Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Anguilla

Group D: Guadeloupe, Turks and Caicos, Sint Maarten

Format

There will be a home-and-away series between every team in each group.

Since League B has four teams in each of its groups, those games will be played during the September, October and November international windows, as will the matches in League C Group A.

League A, which features the best teams in the region, will have its group games take place in October and November. 

 

Now here’s where the format can be confusing to follow. 

The four group winners in League A advance to a four-team knockout tournament to be played in 2020, with the two semifinal winners squaring off in the Nations League Final. 

The third-place finishers in each of the League A groups will be relegated to League B, while the four group winners from League B will be promoted to League A for the next edition of the tournament in 2021. 

Also, the last-place teams in every group from League B will drop down to League C and will be replaced by the four promoted group winners from League C. 

Involvement of MLS Players

We all know about the Major League Soccer players representing the top Concacaf nations, but there are some lesser-known internationals who will participate in the Nations League. 

The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada will all have a heavy MLS presence in League A, as will Jamaica in League B.

Jordy Delem of the Seattle Sounders plays for Martinique, Darwin Ceren of the Houston Dynamo represents El Salvador and Philadelphia’s Warren Creavalle plays for Guyana. 

Apr 22, 2018; Seattle, W; Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Jordy Delem (21) celebrates a goal against Minnesota United FC at CenturyLink Field. (Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams to Watch 

Bermuda

Bermuda will come into the Nations League off its first-ever appearance in the Gold Cup. 

Bermuda won its final three qualifying matches to land in League A and earn a chance to play regional powers Mexico and Panama. 

The most recognizable player on the Bermuda roster is Nahki Wells, who has spent the majority of his professional career in England and currently plays for Queens Park Rangers. 

Montserrat 

Montserrat came close to joining League A and qualifying for the Gold Cup, but it came up just short and landed in 11th place in Nations League qualifying. 

The tiny volcanic nation won its final three qualifying matches and earned a clean sheet in two of those games.

What’s so remarkable about Montserrat is it has been competitive during Nations League qualification with a population of only a few thousand.

 

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