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CONCACAF Nations League: All you need to know

The first edition of the CONCACAF Nations League began in September 2019. Here's a guide for all you need to know about the competition.

What is the CONCACAF Nations League?

It is a competition between the 41 member nations of CONCACAF, the regional governing body of North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It was created to mirror the idea of the UEFA Nations League, aiming to provide more meaningful, competitive fixtures when international friendlies would usually be played. 

It was also noted that some minor nations were playing fewer than 10 games in a four-year period, and this gives them the chance of regular competitive football. 

So this means there are no more international friendlies?

CONCACAF nations will still play some international friendlies. Major countries in League A had two spare dates in September to November 2019, and will have the March international dates. World Cup qualifying will then begin in September 2020. 

Does every CONCACAF nation take part?

Yes. There was an initial qualifying phase, from September 2018 to March 2019, between the 34 lowest-ranked nations in CONCACAF. Each team played four matches, creating an overall ranking from 1 to 34.

The top six teams qualified for CONCACAF Nations League A, 7-22 for League B, and 23-34 for League C. 

Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and United States progressed direct to the final group stage in League A as participants of the 2018 World Cup qualifying Hexagonal. 

Guatemala did not take part in qualifying as it was suspended by FIFA at the time of the draw, meaning it had to be drawn into League C despite being a stronger-ranked nation. 

What is the format?

The 40 nations that take part in the CONCACAF Nations League proper are split into three"Leagues." The strongest nations are in League A, and the weakest in League C.

League A: 12 teams, into four groups of three

League B: 16 teams, into four groups of four

League C: 13 teams, one group of four and three of three

Teams within each group will play each other home and away.

What dates are CONCACAF Nations League games?

Matchday 1: Sept. 5-7, 2019
Matchday 2: Sept. 8-10, 2019
Matchday 3: Oct. 10-12, 2019
Matchday 4: Oct. 13-15, 2019
Matchday 5: Nov. 14-16, 2019
Matchday 6: Nov, 17-19, 2019

What are the CONCACAF Nations League groups?

LEAGUE A

Group A: USA, Canada, Cuba
Group B: Mexico, Panama, Bermuda
Group C: Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique
Group D: Costa Rica, Haiti, Curacao

LEAGUE B

Group A: French Guiana, St. Kitts & Nevis, Belize, Grenada
Group B: El Salvador, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Montserrat
Group C: Jamaica, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba
Group D: Nicaragua, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica

LEAGUE C

Group A: Barbados, Cayman Islands, Saint Martin, U.S. Virgin Islands
Group B: Bonaire, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands
Group C: Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Anguilla
Group D: Guadeloupe, Turks & Caicos Islands, Sint Maarten

When do United States and Mexico play?

United States:
Oct. 11: Cuba, Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
Oct. 15: Canada, BMO Field, Toronto
Nov. 15: Canada, Exploria Stadium, Orlando
Nov. 19: Cuba, Truman Bodden Sports Complex, George Town (Cayman Islands)

Mexico:
Oct. 11: Bermuda, Bermuda National Stadium, Hamilton
Oct. 15: Panama, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
Nov. 15: Panama, TBC, in Panama
Nov. 19: Bermuda, TBC, in Mexico

Will there actually be CONCACAF Nations League champions?

Yes. The four group winners from League A will playoff in knockout format (semifinals, third-place match and final) in June 2020. The host nation has yet to be chosen. 

Who has qualified for the finals?

United States will qualify from Group A at the expense of Canada if they beat Cuba on Nov. 19.

Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico have qualified.

Is there promotion and relegation?

Yes, like in the UEFA Nations League the teams which finish bottom of the groups in Leagues A and B will be relegated. The teams that win their groups in Leagues B and C will be promoted. 

Does the CONCACAF Nations League affect the Gold Cup?

Yes. the 2019 CONCACAF Nations League final tournament is also qualifying for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

Automatic qualifying for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup goes to: 

League A: The top two teams from each group - so far Canada, Curacao, Costa Rica, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, United States
League B: The winner of each group - so far El Salvador, Grenada, Jamaica, Suriname

However, there will be a playoff path to decide the final four qualifiers.

This playoffs will feature:
League A: The four third-place nations - so far Cuba, Haiti,  Trinidad & Tobago
League B: The four second-place finishers - so far French Guiana, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
League C: The four group winners - so far Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Guatemala  

Round 1: A two-legged playoff when a nation from Leagues B will play one from League C, scheduled for March 2020
Round 2: The winners from Round 1 will be drawn against a team from League A, to be played in June 2020, for a place in the finals.

When is the next edition of the CONCACAF Nations League?

It has not yet been confirmed, but with World Cup qualifying taking place through to October 2021, intercontinental playoffs in March 2022, the next available slot for the group phase will be June to September 2022, with the finals in 2023. However, with the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup to also fit into the schedule, and the World Cup finals in late 2022, time would be tight. 

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