LOS ANGELES, California – For Concacaf Director of Development Jason Roberts, there is a strong developmental aspect to the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
The former Grenada international has been instrumental in furthering Concacaf’s efforts to develop the game around the region as part of Concacaf’s One Concacaf initiative. That includes expanding the Concacaf NextPlay social responsibility program, which promotes access to football within the region to drive social change, into the 2019 Gold Cup.
Concacaf will be giving back to some of the communities that will be hosting this summer’s Gold Cup with football clinics for children and young adults. The developmental inroads that Concacaf is making is an immense source of pride for the 41-year-old.
“What’s fantastic about this 2019 edition of the Gold Cup is that even though it’s elite, even though it’s about the best teams in our region, it’s also had a big development initiative towards it,” said Roberts in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com during the 2019 Gold Cup Draw in Los Angeles, California.
“Increasing the tournament from 12 to 16 teams ensures that more teams have the opportunity to be part of this competition, and with the qualification phase having been driven by the Nations League, it means that there have been over 250 additional games put into the diary in FIFA windows. We’ve seen those great stories about Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis getting so close, and of course we’ve seen Guyana and Bermuda making it into the Gold Cup for the first time. This is about elite competition, but the developmental part of it has been something really incredible,” added Roberts.
The 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup is a historical one in that for the first time the tournament will be played outside of North America, with Costa Rica and Jamaica hosting matches, a decision Roberts supports wholeheartedly.
“It showing that it’s about a Concacaf event. We want this competition to reach as many people in this region as possible, hence the increase in participants. It’s why we are seeing teams that traditionally haven’t had the opportunity to get to this level now being part of it, with the likes of Michael Johnson managing at Guyana, Kyle Lightbourne managing Bermuda. These are young forward-thinking coaches who are operating at the highest level,” said Roberts.
Roberts also took a moment to hail the vision of Concacaf President Victor Montagliani, whose One Concacaf initiative has been a driving force in the rapid growth of football all throughout the region in the last year.
“When you look at the vision of One Concacaf, you look at the vision of our President Victor Montagliani, it’s been about putting football central to the discussion again.
“The Nations League, U15 tournament, Caribbean Club Shield, all of these tournaments are about driving the development of football. We are giving all of our members the opportunity to compete at an elite level, and with the World Cup coming up in 2026, the Concacaf bid of the U.S., Mexico and Canada and hopefully an increase to 48 teams, yet again there will be more opportunities for players and teams that haven’t had a chance before to compete in the greatest sporting event in the world,” concluded Roberts.