CONCACAF fleshes out qualifying road to inaugural women's Gold Cup tournament in 2024
CONCACAF has mapped out its pathway for the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup, scheduled to kick off next year in the United States.
Qualification is set to start in September, following a May 17 draw, with nine teams moving on to the 18-country main tournament.
The CONCACAF W Gold Cup, to run Feb. 17 to March 10, 2024, will feature a six-team preliminary round and 12-team group stage, followed by a three-round knockout stage to decide the top women's side in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
CONCACAF made the announcement Wednesday to mark International Women's Day
“This new CONCACAF W Gold Cup will be the flagship event for women’s national team football in our region and will showcase some of the very best women’s football in CONCACAF and the world," Canadian Victor Montagliani, president of CONCACAF and vice-president of FIFA, said in a statement.
The 12-team group stage will consist of eight CONCACAF teams and four guest countries from South America's CONMEBOL confederation.
The top-ranked U.S. has already secured a berth in the group stage by winning the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship, where the Americans defeat Canada 1-0 in the final.
Sixth-ranked Canada can book its ticket to the group stage by beating No. 44 Jamaica in September in the two-legged CONCACAF Olympic Play-In. But the loser of that play-in faces a longer route to the CONCACAF W Gold Cup.
Six other CONCACAF teams will advance to the group stage via qualifying and the preliminary round. The CONMEBOL guest teams — No. 9 Brazil, No. 27 Colombia, No. 29 Argentina and No. 50 Paraguay — were decided via the 2022 Women’s Copa America.
The qualifying road starts in September for 33 countries, following the conclusion of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The 33 CONCACAF teams, not including the region's two representatives at the 2024 Paris Olympics (the U.S. and Canada or Jamaica), will be split into three leagues according to their CONCACAF ranking of March 2023.
League A will feature the nine top-ranked teams divided into three groups. League B will include next 12 best-ranked teams divided into three groups while League C is comprised of the 12 lowest-ranked teams split into three groups.
After home-and-away play in the September, October, and November FIFA international windows, the three League A group winners qualify for the CONCACAF W Gold Cup group stage.
The runners-up in the League A groups and League B group winners advance to the CONCACAF W Gold Cup prelims.
Those six teams will face off in a single-game elimination preliminary round, slated for Feb. 17, 2024, to decide which three move on to the group stage.
The six countries will be divided into three pairings according to their CONCACAF ranking of December 2023 with the winners advancing to the group stage.
The round-robin group stage, to run Feb. 20-28, 2024, will divide the teams into three groups of four. Following group-stage play, the three pool winners and runners-up plus the two best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout stage.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press