Editor's Note: CONCACAF hipster Jon Arnold brings Goal readers stories and opinions from around the region in a weekly column.
We live in a time of trends. While social networks are filled with posts about the Yeezy Season 3 line, Kendrick at the Grammys or Donald Trump's latest spewage, the trendiest thing in CONCACAF is reform. Yes, again.
A Reuters report released Monday says CONCACAF lawyers have been leaning very hard on federation officials to continue the road to reform. If not, the confederation could lose its current victim status in the courts and have all sorts of penalties levied against it by the American government, including an eventual dissolution of the organization as a whole. Maybe it was no coincidence CONCACAF released a statement last week expressing "unanimous support for FIFA reform proposals."
We've talked about the various reforms the confederation should make at the administrative level, and we've talked about how lip service to reform is laudable but empty if there's no action behind it.
This week brought to mind yet another area where CONCACAF's leaders have failed the players and fans they claim to represent instead of taking action. The imbalance that exists in the women's game is far wider than that in the men's game.
The group stage of the CONCACAF Olympic qualification wraps up Tuesday, but there was hardly any merit to playing the three matches. The United States and Canada topped the groups with Costa Rica through from the Americans' group after beating Mexico. Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana square off Tuesday for the right to play the U.S. in a semifinal that will see the winner advance to the Olympics in Brazil. The U.S., Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico were the region's representatives at the World Cup. It's the same teams finding success over and over.
More than the lack of competition at the regional level of the women's game, the total disparity between the top teams and the bottom is enormous. Take a look at the goal differences. The U.S. finished up at plus 16, admittedly aided by Monday's 10-0 win against Puerto Rico. The islanders head home with a negative 26 goal difference. On the men's side, eventual champion Mexico mustered a plus six goal difference after the group stage of Olympic qualification. The U.S. did better in Group A, finishing up 11 but Panama was only six in the hole.
Go farther back in the women's side and you'll find that when teams even were able to make the field (three of 15 Caribbean teams withdrew) many weren't anywhere near the needed level. Dominica played two matches in Caribbean qualification and suffered an 11-0 defeat that it followed up with a 13-0 loss. Puerto Rico, again a team that had a minus 26 goal difference in this round, won its group with a plus 22 goal difference. Haiti was second but had a plus 26 margin. Grenada and Aruba, the obvious stragglers, left with minus 23 and minus 25 respectively.
Sure, the world champion U.S. and established contender Canada are better than most teams they'll face. But are they really that much better? These types of blowouts do happen on the men's side, but they're the exception rather than the expectation. The women's game doesn't bring in as much cash or draw as many eyeballs, sure. Part of that is the lack of competition that would be remedied with more attention.
More money dedicated to the women's game would be welcome, but in many cases it's wise administration that's really needed. Trinidad and Tobago has talented players (and is still alive for the Olympics) but seems locked in an eternal guessing game about who will be the coach at major tournaments or where training camps will take place. Even Mexico, the region's champion on the men's side and a country where thousands of women and girls play regularly, suffers from an embarrassing lack of organization on the women's side.
Where is the women's game weakest? In places like the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Instead of working to make sure soccer was accessible to all, officials from those nations were instead working to line their pockets or hook up their friends, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
There's plenty that needs fixing in our region. This week reminds all of us that getting eyeballs on the women's game is near the top of the list.