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.
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.
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:
Group A: United States, Canada, Cubs
Group B: Mexico, Panama, Bermuda
Group C: Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique
Group D: Costa Rica, Haiti, Curacao
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
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
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.
Teams to Watch
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 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.