You won't see these words written very often in this space, but today CONCACAF have announced a great decision (CONCACAF is the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football - UEFA's North American cousin). They've decided that the Gold Cup (Concacaf's version of the European Championships, or Euro)will no longer have "invitation" teams. What this means is that only teams from our Confederation will be allowed to play in our Championship. Having "invitation" teams was akin to having a European club team participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs because it was deemed that the 16th team wasn't strong enough to compete. It was a complete insult to the region, a slap in the face considering only 12 teams play in the Gold Cup.
Are there 12 world class teams in CONCACAF? No. Only Mexico and USA deserve that designation. However, why deny Nicaragua or Haiti the chance to play with the big boys in our regional championship? Latvia played in the last Euro, for crying out loud! We all know anything can happen in soccer, and Latvia proved that by drawing Germany in the group stage. Would you deny them that opportunity in favour of inviting South Korea or Ecuador? UEFA would never demean itself in such a way, and I'm glad to see CONCACAF come to their senses.
For the record, Canada won the Gold cup in 2000 and was 3rd in 2002. Yes, the championship is played every two years. This is the next battleground in the war between CONCACAF and Common Sense: let's have the championship played every four years, in the same year as the Euro. At the same time we can add four teams to bring it up to 16. In this way the Championship will gain credibility and cachet.