The 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup will not only feature a first-ever draw, but will also include a guest competitor in the tournament.
Concacaf announced on Wednesday that the group stage will be expanded to 16 teams, along with a preliminary round which will see 12 teams fight for the final three spots. The Preliminary Round will take place from July 2-6 in the United States and will be a direct elimination format.
“The Concacaf Gold Cup continues to grow as a competition and we are hugely excited at the prospect of the 2021 edition, particularly as it falls in the Confederation’s 60th anniversary year,” Concacaf President and FIFA Vice President, Victor Montagliani said.
“A new format which provides more excitement for fans allows us to build on a very successful 2019 edition, which included competitive football and great stories. I also believe that having a draw for this competition is a long time coming and fits with our objective to be a truly football first organization. It will provide great anticipation for fans as they look forward to the return of international football in our region.”
In addition, a first-ever Gold Cup draw will take place on Sept. 28th, 2020 which will determine the preliminary round and group stage schedules. As the tournament moves into the knockout stage, teams will be able to face one another from opposite ends of the bracket, another change made for the upcoming competition.
12 teams have already clinched its berths into the tournament due to its results in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League. The U.S. Men’s National Team will be joined by fellow Concacaf heavyweights Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras as some of the headliners.
Canada, Curacao, El Salvador, Grenada, Martinique, Panama, Suriname have also guaranteed its berths into the tournament and will also be joined by AFC Asian Cup Champions Qatar. Qatar, who will host the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, has been included as a guest competitor as part of a major collaboration between Concacaf and the country itself.
Qatar will also take part in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup as part of an agreement made by the two parties.
“We also welcome a new guest in the Qatar National Team. As the AFC Asian Champions, they will provide stern opposition for Concacaf teams,” Montagliani said. “The partnership we have entered into with the QFA and SC will be game-changing for the development of football at all levels in our region.”
“It will also provide a great opportunity to share knowledge in a number of areas between the host of the FIFA World Cup 2022, and the region which will host the event in 2026. On behalf of all Concacaf Members I would like to place on record my gratitude to the AFC, and the QFA and SC for their commitment to collaborating and working with us on these important football partnerships.”
The Preliminary Round will comprise of 12 teams based on its CNL performances, including the third placed teams from League A groups, the second placed teams from League B groups, and the winners of League C groups. Those teams are Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
After a knockout format involving these 12 National Teams, the remaining three teams at the end of the round will qualify for the Gold Cup Group Stage.
The 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup is scheduled to take place in the United States from July 10 – Aug. 1st. Mexico is the defending champions after defeating the USMNT 1-0 in Chicago in July 2019.