CONCACAF Women Championship, aka Don't feed the Americans
It’s hard to look past the Americans in terms of women’s football. Right, then. See you next time.
In all seriousness, there's no avoiding the fact the USWNT is a blue whale in the North and Central American and Caribbean koi pond. Regional competition isn't up to the task. Few have a domestic division in which to develop talent. Haiti battle hard in the U17s but have no senior level. Only a handful of CONCACAF nations feature women's professional leagues.
The regional tournament contests two four-team groups, the top pair from each cross-pollinating in the semifinals, the winners meeting to be crowned champion.
The Americans topped Group A, sweeping aside all who stood in their way. Panama, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago were powerless before the Stars and Stripes. Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath fired the goals. The backline remained imperious as the USWNT completed a perfect group performance. The men may not be anywhere to be found but football is being treated to an American masterclass from these ladies.
Panama also qualified ahead of the favoured Mexicans. The golden generation in the Isthmus has populated both genders. The girls from Tocumen came second in the group with two wins but still finished with a neutral goal difference courtesy a 5-0 loss to Jill Ellis' Yanks.
The other North American powerhouse, Canada, was left to face several underdogs. The Maple Leafs of ladies soccer are ranked fifth in the world. Little wonder they swept their group, as well. Along the way, they drubbed the Cubans 12-0. Keep in mind this was a competitive fixture. Jordyn Huitema, the 17-year-old, scored four, as did Adriana Leon.Maybe a friendly against Manchester United's women to see who's most dominant? In some parts of the world, that’s a cricket score with the opposition retiring. Cuba should have retired before the tournament. Losing 8-0, 12-0 and 9-0 is demoralising. Back to the drawing board.
Jamaica joined Canada, the US and Panama in the semifinals. After tasting defeat to Canada to open the tournament, the Reggae Girlz recorded two victories and two clean sheets. Like the Panamanians, they punched above their weight class, ranking 30 places below Costa Rica.
North America is rich. The rest of the confederation, save for Mexico, is not. Only those three boast teams filled with professionals. The other countries feature too many part-time players. Their nations lack the finances to rectify the problem. What little they have is spent on the men.
The solution? There isn’t a concrete one, but the Americans ought to play a part. if the USSF partnered with the NWSL to raise the game's profile by placing academies in other countries, the region would catch up to Europe. Along the way, a few might become US citizens, widening the nation's already broad talent base. Countries like Cuba and Curacao can't fix themselves.
Another option might be a unified Caribbean side as in cricket.
As noted, the group runners-up face the opposing group winners. Panama takes on Canada while Jamaica steps into the Americans' line of fire.
Panama conceded as many as they scored across three games while Canada managed a healthy 17:1 ratio. One match was a dead rubber. Punters will be looking hard at the over in this one.
The other game should be a tighter contest. The Caribbean contingent boasts a resolute defence. Only two goals made their way through the Jamaican rearguard. On the other hand, 90% of their goals came against Cuba. Beating the Yanks is a Davida v Goliath proposition, but it's more likely here than in the earlier match.
The games take place tonight, at 10pm and 1am UK, if you feel like being a little late for work in the morning. Enjoy.