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CONCACAF: What Does It Stand For And Its Tarnished History

As one of FIFA’s six continental confederations, CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, serves as the governing body of football in this region. The organization is primarily responsible for organizing competitions for national teams and clubs, as well as qualifying tournaments for the World Cup and the Women’s World Cup.

As a result of the merger of the Central American and Caribbean Football Confederation (CCCF) and the North American Football Confederation (NAFC), CONCACAF has 40 member associations, including Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana.

Of the 40 members, five are associate members: Dutch territory Sint Maarten and French Guyana and its fellow French overseas departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint-Martin. Their status permits them to play in CONCACAF events but not of FIFA.

Some of the more well-known countries in CONCACAF include:

  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • United States

CONCACAF operates as the administrative body for the region, organizing competitions, offering technical and administrative training, and promoting football throughout it. National teams and clubs compete in competitions organized by the Confederation.

It also conducts qualifying tournaments for FIFA events, including the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and FIFA world championships at youth levels, beach football, and futsal.

concacaf gold cup trophy

CONCACAF Gold Cup

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is a showcase event for men’s national teams. In this contest, which is held every two years, the region’s champion team is crowned.

Mexico’s national team has won the CONCACAF Gold Cup eight times, including winning three consecutive championships before a crowd of 91,000 in Los Angeles in 1998, before Canada won its first significant international honor in over 100 years of football history in 2000.

The only other team to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup is the USA who have won it seven times, including the last tournament in 2021.

The 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup final will be held in California in July 2023.

The winner of the CONCACAF Nations League earns the right to participate in the following edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup, which is a prestigious international tournament contested by the winners of each of the six regional confederations affiliated with FIFA. The Confederations Cup is held every four years, one year before the FIFA World Cup.

CONCACAF W Championship trophy

CONCACAF W Championship

Often serving as the qualifying competition for the Women’s World Cup and more recently the Olympics, the CONCACAF W Championship is the region’s main women’s competition. The United States has been the most successful country, winning its ninth title in 2022.

Canada managed to win it twice in 1998 and 2010. No other CONCACAF nation has won the tournament.

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CONCACAF Champions’ Cup

The CONCACAF Champions’ Cup has been CONCACAF’s premier club competition since its inception in 1962. Played annually, the tournament features the champions and runner-up of domestic competitions from national associations affiliated with the Confederation.

28 clubs have won the title, with 13 winning it more than once. A total of 36 titles have been won by Mexican clubs. A total of six titles have been won by Costa Rica’s Primera División teams. In the history of the competition, Club América has won seven titles, followed by Cruz Azul with six titles.

Starting in the fall of 2023, Concacaf has confirmed a dramatic expansion and revamp of its club competition format, when ten regionalized teams of five teams will compete in a year-long tournament to crown the confederation champion across ten groups, including four groups featuring teams from the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

CONCACAF Champions_ Cup winners list

How Many CONCACAF Nations Go To World Cup

In the Men’s World Cup, the Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) is allocated a total of 3.5 spots in the 32-team tournament. These spots are divided among the countries in the region as follows:

  • The winner of the CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifies automatically for the World Cup.
  • The top three teams from the final round of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region (known as the “Hexagonal”) also qualify for the World Cup.
  • If the winner of the Gold Cup has already qualified through the Hexagonal, then the fourth-placed team from the Hexagonal will qualify for the World Cup instead.
  • So in total, 3 or 4 CONCACAF teams can qualify for the World Cup, depending on the results of the qualifying rounds.

In the Women’s World Cup, the Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) is allocated three spots in the 24-team tournament. These spots are divided among the countries in the region as follows:

  • The top three teams from the CONCACAF Women’s Championship (also known as the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup) qualify for the Women’s World Cup.
  • So in total, 3 CONCACAF teams can qualify for the Women’s World Cup through the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

next world cup location

World Cups Held In CONCACAF

CONCACAF joined Europe and South America as the only Confederations to host three or more World Cup events in 1994. The USA hosted the event for the first time in 1994, while Mexico hosted it twice, in 1970 and 1986. This region is hosting the next World Cup in 2026.

As the century turned, each zone within the Confederation took turns in hosting a FIFA world championship. In 1999 and 2003, the USA hosted a World Cup, this time for women, while Mexico hosted the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Guatemala hosted its first world championship in 2000 with the FIFA Futsal World Championship, while Trinidad & Tobago became the first Caribbean country to host a world football event in 2001 with the FIFA World U-17 Championship.

CONCACAF organizes tournaments on a four-year cycle for clubs and national teams throughout the region. This includes qualifying tournaments (also the regional championships) for the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Women’s World Cup, FIFA tournaments at under-17, under-20, and under-23 youth levels, and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and the FIFA Futsal World Cup.

Two other regional entities support CONCACAF, specifically the CFU (Caribbean Football Union) and UNCAF (Union Centromericana de Fútbol “Central America”), organize regional and qualification events for men’s and women’s national sides as well as club teams to different CONCACAF tournaments.

concacaf officials being arrested

CONCACAF Scandal

Lets set the scene. The ex-President and ex-General Secretary of CONCACAF.

Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, President of CONCACAF, was the FIFA Vice President and Chairman of the FIFA Youth Competitions Committee. He was also serving as Deputy Chairman of the Finance Committee. In addition, he was a Member of the Emergency Committee and Committee for Security Matters and Fair Play.

General Secretary Chuck Blazer of the USA was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee. In addition, he was the Deputy Chairman of the Marketing and Television Advisory Board and a Member of the FIFA Players Status Committee and Committee for Security Matters and Fair Play. He also served as Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup.

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Blazer admitted to conspiring with other FIFA executive committee members to accept bribes during the failed 1998 bid of Morocco and the successful 2010 bid of South Africa to host the World Cup. In a New York federal court, his admissions were made during a sealed sentencing hearing.

After examining their cases, the FIFA Ethics Committee suspended FIFA Vice-President Jack A. Warner from participating in any football-related activity (administrative, sports, or any other) worldwide.

Furthermore, the Ethics Committee examined the cases of two officials from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) – Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester – concerning an alleged breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics and the FIFA Disciplinary Code and suspended them too.

chuck blazer and jack warner

The One Time Double Act

Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer, the one-time double act who fell out spectacularly and ended up as bitter foes, were denounced as “fraudulent in their management” of CONCACAF by an official report.

In a stunning indictment of their conduct while in charge of the confederation – which covers north and central America and the Caribbean – David Simmons, head of CONCACAF’s Integrity Committee and a former chief justice of Barbados, presented the confederation’s congress in Panama with a detailed forensic audit into allegations of financial mismanagement by Warner, CONCACAF’s former president, and his general secretary Blazer who stepped down in December.

At the center of the probe were claims, sensationally revealed at the CONCACAF Congress in Budapest, that the $25.9m Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence in Trinidad was not owned by CONCACAF, as all its members had assumed, but – secretly – by two companies owned by Warner.

Extraordinary evidence of the tangled financial state of CONCACAF under the Warner/Blazer regime prompted fury among delegates in Budapest. It included CONCACAF allegedly concealing tax liabilities to the US Inland Revenue Service between 2007 and 2011 to millions of dollars and prompted Warner’s replacement, Jeff Webb, to commission a detailed probe.

The larger-than-life media-friendly Chuck Blazer was the whistle-blower in the 2011 cash-for-votes scandal that led to Warner, FIFA’s longest-serving vice-president, resigning all his football positions.

Blazer always insisted he, by contrast, was completely clean, but Simmons told delegates there was a severe abuse of power under the Warner/Blazer regime.

“I have recounted a sad and sorry tale in the life of CONCACAF, a tale of abuse of position and power, by persons who assisted in bringing the organization to profitability but enriched themselves at the expense of their very own organizations,” said Simmons.

His words prompted fury among delegates, with one describing Warner, Minister of National Security in the Trinidad and Tobago government, and Blazer as “white collar thieves”.

The report found that Warner should have disclosed to CONCACAF or FIFA that the Centre of Excellence was built on land owned by his companies. “Approximately $26m of CONCACAF funds went into the Centre of Excellence, and that is no longer an asset of CONCACAF,” said Simmons.

Turning to Blazer, who stands down from FIFA’s executive committee at next month’s FIFA Congress in Mauritius, Simmons disclosed the bearded American received more than $20m in compensation from CONCACAF, including $17m in commission which was paid, primarily, via an offshore marketing company.

jack warner, sepp blatter and chuck blazer

Zero Accountability

He added that Blazer worked without a contract from July 18, 1998, and his compensation was discussed only three times at CONCACAF meetings for 21 years.

The report also found “no business reason” for renting apartments used by Blazer in Manhattan. It said the American had also tried to buy property in the Bahamas, in 2007, for about $4m using football funds.

Blazer was described by Simmons as “entirely negligent” for failing to file income tax returns for CONCACAF in the United States, which led to the body losing its tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization.

Concluding his report, he said the auditors used by CONCACAF during the Warner era, Trinidad-based Kenny Rampersad and Company, needed to be more independent and cited documented proof that Warner and Blazer were clients of the firm.

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Both men have previously denied any wrongdoing but have now been seriously discredited, the latest blow to strike at the heart of FIFA’s credibility.

Listening to Simmons picking apart the conduct of two of his former colleagues on the top table of world football was FIFA President Sepp Blatter , who must have felt distinctly uncomfortable. Some money invested into the Centre of Excellence came from FIFA loans.

“Warner represented to FIFA that funds would be used to support development but never told FIFA that Centre would be situated on land owned by his companies,” said Simmons.

“There is no evidence that Warner or anyone else ever disclosed to the CONCACAF executive committee or congress that his companies owned lands on which the Center was built.”

Warner said Simmons had “deceived persons and organizations” into believing the facility was CONCACAF’s and not his.