Montagliani: CONCACAF Gold Cup expansion is additional fuel for the growth of the game
Now that the CONCACAF Gold Cup expansion has been officially announced, CONCACAF.com sat down with CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani to discuss his vision to grow the biennial competition from 12 to 16 teams beginning in 2019, while providing a significant opportunity to increase access and competitiveness for all 41 Member Associations.
What does the Gold Cup expansion mean for the game within the CONCACAF region?
Clearly, as a Confederation, we want to maximize our competitions to benefit all of our stakeholders. We have seen an increase in the quality of a number of national teams competing in our premier competition throughout the 14 editions of the tournament and we got more countries with a good football level that could excel with this opportunity to experience the Gold Cup first hand. The Gold Cup in 2019 will provide teams that haven’t been very popular, with unique opportunities to play in one of the biggest stages within our region and serves as a significant platform to improve their performance.
This expansion and the upcoming launch of the CONCACAF Nations League are at the core of our ONE CONCACAF Vision for a strong football future and fulfill our commitment to make the region’s most competitive football more accessible to more of our Confederation’s teams, players and fans.
Through this expansion, we are serving multiple purposes to accelerate the development of football and push markets for a steady growth from a commercial and infrastructure standpoint.
By widening access to these important tournaments for more of our Member Associations, we work towards our goal of ensuring that the football produced in the CONCACAF region is of the highest quality in the world.
One of the significant aspects of this expansion is the opportunity for Central American and Caribbean countries to play the game. What are the benefits for these Member Associations?
The Gold Cup represents the pinnacle of national team football. A primary objective of our ONE CONCACAF Vision has been to increase access to the game at the highest levels for all our Member Associations, including Central America and the Caribbean.
As of 2017, only ten of our 31 Caribbean Member Associations have played in the Gold Cup – that ratio of inclusion is not high enough for our premier championship. I think this shows very clearly how the expansion brings those nations one step closer to success, creating access to the Gold Cup for many more.
Whereas in the past some very competitive Central American teams have missed out, the expanded Gold Cup will open the door wider for participation of Central America’s up-and-coming nations to participate on a more regular basis, continuing the on-going process of development in the region.
How confident are you that the expansion will impact the level of competitiveness within CONCACAF?
If you look at a team like Panama, which has now qualified for its first FIFA World Cup in 2018, so much of their national team success can be traced to progress and accomplishments obtained over the last 20 years in the Gold Cup. That’s the essence of why opening access to the Gold Cup is so important to CONCACAF – participation over time consolidates growth and provides a platform for teams to become even more competitive.
Along with the CONCACAF Nations League, the expanded Gold Cup will provide greater access to the region’s top-level competition for all our Member Associations. I am convinced that this increased competition will have significant developmental effects for all our Member Associations, especially those that historically have played fewer competitive matches.
I firmly believe that in 2019, with countries from Central America and the Caribbean that didn’t make it before, focused on improving, we will see a high-level battle simply to even make it to the Gold Cup. I am sure the next edition is going to be even more exciting.
This is a historic announcement for the region. What can we expect on a Caribbean and/or Central American nation potentially hosting a Gold Cup match?
We’ve all seen the passion for the game and the spirit exemplified by fans in multiple venues across the Caribbean and Central America. That’s a huge aspect of what makes football great in our region, and we want to give our Member Associations and fans the opportunity to experience one of the greatest international football competitions.
I believe that potentially staging matches from CONCACAF’s top tournament in one or both of those regions is a natural extension of that passion, and will also help pass along important logistical expertise to our Member Associations in terms of match organization and execution at the highest level.