The United States are currently facing off against Guyana in their Gold Cup opener. In a match between CONCACAF programs, why is a team from the northern coast of South America competing against North American and Caribbean squads?
US Soccer provided an explanation in its preview of Guyana’s national team, as the Yanks have never faced the visitors in any previous international matchup.
Generally speaking the trio identifies more culturally with the Caribbean, with their sizes also making them a better fit with the Concacaf region.
Other examples of this across the world exist with Russia, Israel and Australia. The first two are completely or partially located in Asia but are members of the European confederation – UEFA. Australia were once members of the Oceanic Football Confederation (OFC), but have been part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) since 2013.
In addition, Guyana would have a very hard time breaking through if it affiliated in South America with CONMEBOL. They would consistently deal with middle-tiered contenders such as Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela and others before even sniffing matchups with powers such as Brazil or Argentina.
Meanwhile, Guyana has a similar profile to several smaller Caribbean countries, such as Bermuda, Barbados or St. Kitts.
This is the first Gold Cup appearance for Guyana, and it wasn’t too long ago that they weren’t playing any sort of games. World Soccer explains that off-field issues forced them to the sideline from 2012 to 2014.
Amidst reports of only being paid $12USD a day, numerous players went on strike during the 2012 Caribbean Cup campaign in November 2012, and despite being strong contenders to win the competition, Guyana failed to even qualify for the tournament, losing in qualification with a largely depleted team.
Immediately after that horrendous episode, Guyana stopped playing football completely. That’s right, they stopped playing football. After defeating French Guiana on the 18th November 2012, Guyana stopped playing football for twenty-two long months, only returning to the International stage recently on 3rd September 2014 in Caribbean Cup qualifiers.
For a country with a population less than 1,000,000 overall, the fact that they rank in the top-200 and find themselves in a major tournament is impressive in its own right.
Being deadlocked with the Americans, a 6-time Gold Cup champion, through the first 20 minutes in the opener is an accomplishment in its own right. At the very least, Guyana is technically a peer of the North American power due to CONCACAF rules.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect statement about the population of Guyana. It is a country of less than 1 million people, not less than 100,000.