Everything is connected in Concacaf.
The Concacaf Nations League, set to kick off Thursday, will serve as qualification for 2021 Gold Cup, the confederation announced Wednesday.
Nations League is set up with three leagues. The top two teams in each League A group will secure automatic qualification to the continental championship. So too will the winners for the four League B groups.
The second-place teams in League B, along with the winners of the four League C groups will go into a qualification round for the Gold Cup with the winners of those games moving on to play the third-place teams from each League A group (who also will be relegated from the marquee league).
That means the 16-team field for the confederation’s top tournament will be made up of the eight winners and runners-up of League A groups, the four winners of the League B groups and four teams who secure their spot via the playoff.
“The Concacaf Nations League is about uniting the Confederation through meaningful competition, while providing an exciting pathway to the Gold Cup,” Concacaf President Victor Montagliani said in a news release. “Through this tournament, all 41 Concacaf Member Associations are able to follow the dream of competing on a more consistent basis, opening the door for continued development across our entire region.”
The first-round of the Gold Cup qualification playoff, between the winners of League C groups and the second-place teams from League B groups, are set to take place in March. The winners of those two-legged ties will then face the third-place teams from League A in June. The final of the Nations League, featuring the League A group winners, also is set to take place in June 2020.
Earlier this summer, the confederation announced a major overhaul to World Cup qualification. It sees the Hexagonal round played simultaneously with a tournament featuring the remaining teams in a tournament to earn a spot in a playoff against the fourth-placed team in the Hex. Previously, the Hex was the culmination of the qualification process, but it now will feature the top six teams as determined by the June 2020 FIFA rankings.