W Gold Cup kicks off Saturday with triple header group play-in at Dignity Health Park, LA

February 16 – The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off tomorrow in Carson, Los Angeles, with a triple header play-in for the final three slots in the groups stage that kicks off next Tuesday (February 20), also at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

The Concacaf tournament is the first time the north, central American and Caribbean confederation has invited guests into its women’s national team competition, with Conmebol’s Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay joining the eight Concacaf qualifiers led by the USA and Olympic Champions Canada.

The 12 teams will play across four stadia with groups based in Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston. LA will host the quarter finals while San Diego will host the semis and final.

For the US, Canada, Brazil and Colombia the tournament will provide key preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics later this year.

But the W Gold Cup is about a lot more than the big nations tuning up for Olympics.

It stands as a commitment to the women’s game in the region to provide both higher quality international competition but also increased opportunity for Concacaf’s member nations to compete at the biggest events.

The preliminary round is the expression of that commitment with six teams – five of them pretty much for the first time – experiencing what a majors finals competition looks and feels like.

The preliminary knockouts start with Guyana and the Dominican Republic, two nations that have never played a women’s international against each other before. Both teams qualified by winning their groups in League B of the women’s equivalent of the Concacaf men’s Nations League, dubbed the Road to W Gold Cup.

While their histories are relatively short, they both go into the play off with a 5 win and 1 loss record. They both have a strong goalscoring record with Guyana scoring 20 goals in qualifying and the Dominican Republic hitting the back of the net 24 times.

The second preliminary qualifier sees Haiti, who qualified for the 2023 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand, play Puerto Rico. Both were runners up in their League A groups.

Haiti, with their World Cup and W Championship experiences from 2023 and 2022, on paper look to be the favourites and certainly have the experience and the ability to be able to call-up players playing professionally overseas.

Puerto Rico are more of an unknown quantity. A younger squad and national team programme, what they may miss in experience they make up for with talent. Haiti have a reputation in both the men’s and women’s game of fierce commitment and the ability to spring surprise results. They will need to be vigilant to make sure they are not on the wrong end of a surprise on Saturday.

The final play-off is the all-central American clash between El Salvador and Guatemala. They have played each other nine times before with Guatemala having won seven times.

Guatemala finished second in the League A group while El Salvador topped their League B group, hammering 24 goals in the process.

The preliminary round is an opportunity for these teams not just to announce their international arrival on a bigger stage, but to stay in the competition a little longer.

Concacaf has announced their intention with the W Gold Cup to provide their women’s teams with a bigger and louder platform to play-on. Tomorrow is the start of another exciting journey for the women’s game that isn’t over shadowed by European dominance but is driven by opportunity, inclusion and new frontiers.

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