Hey CONCACAF: Give a Trophy to the Octagonal Champion
The Region's World Cup Qualifying Tournament Is Far More Meaningful Than the Gold Cup
ORLANDO, Fla. — I feel very strongly about this: CONCACAF won’t ever do it, but it should start giving a trophy to the winner of the region’s World Cup qualifying tournament.
Why? For me, it’s pretty simple. Better than any other competition, including the Gold Cup, the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament determines the best team in this part of the world. For starters, the Octagonal has the best possible teams with the best possible players. It involves taking on every other team in the tournament away and at home over a period of months. The stakes (qualifying for a World Cup once every four years) are higher than they are at the once-every-two-years Gold Cup.
The Gold Cup, for its part, often doesn’t have a country’s best players. That was even the case for the U.S. team that won last summer’s Gold Cup.
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Think about it this way: The United States may be the current CONCACAF champion (having won the most recent Gold Cup), but for me the best team in CONCACAF is Canada, which leads the Octagonal. This applies to South America, too, where Argentina is the current CONMEBOL champion (having won the most recent Copa América), but for me the best team in CONMEBOL is Brazil, which leads the continent’s 18-round home-and-away World Cup qualifying tournament.
I realize the main prize of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament is earning a ticket to the World Cup. But shouldn’t we give the winner something more than the third-place team gets after all that effort? Shouldn’t we reward what will likely be Canada for a historic performance that includes two wins, two ties and zero defeats against traditional CONCACAF heavyweights Mexico and the USMNT?
CONCACAF won’t do this, of course, because it doesn’t want to do anything that would dilute the importance of winning the Gold Cup trophy.
I would even argue that awarding a trophy for winning the Octagonal could potentially be useful in keeping already-qualified teams honest and giving their best possible effort on the last one or two matchdays. And that would be a good thing for the competition.
Which teams would have won a hypothetical trophy as the best team in CONCACAF in the modern era of the region’s World Cup qualifying tournament going back to the 1998 cycle? Let’s give them their due:
2014 United States
2010 United States
2002 Costa Rica
I would have loved to see those teams have the chance to raise a trophy together for what they achieved. Because they most definitely earned it.
What do you think? Should CONCACAF start giving a trophy to its World Cup qualifying tournament champion?
The USMNT is the 2006 hex champion. According to the tiebreaking rules applying for that qualifying tournament, the USMNT finished ahead of Mexico based on results between tied teams . Mexico and the USMNT, tied on head-to-head points (3). Head-to-head goal difference: United States +1, Mexico −1.
I think Concacaf should not do this, because (we expect) the top three teams this cycle won’t even compete next cycle, and for cycles after that there might not even be a single-table competition for the five or so slots we get.