Gold Cup 2021: Concacaf unveils new format, introduces guest team

The Gold Cup will welcome its first guest team since 2005 when Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, will participate as the 16th team in next year's tournament. 

Qatar, the reigning Asian champion, played in the 2019 Copa America and is slated to play in the 2021 Copa America June 11-July 10 in Argentina and Colombia. Besides the 2021 Gold Cup, which will begin July 10, Qatar to play in the 2023 Gold Cup.

The last guest teams were Colombia and South Africa in 2005. On three occasions, guest teams finished second at the Gold Cup: Brazil (1996 and 2003) and Colombia (2000).

Twelve teams qualified for the 2021 Gold Cup based on their finish in the Concacaf Nations Cup:

-- League A group winners (USA, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica);
-- League A group runners-up (Canada, Curacao, Martinique and Panama); and
-- League B group winners (El Salvador, Grenada, Jamaica and Suriname).

Playoffs. The other three teams will emerge from the qualifying playoffs. The original plan was for the playoffs to take place over two windows, in March and June, and qualify for four from among the 12 remaining teams. That plan got wiped out when the pandemic shut down international play.

The new plan will be to pair the 12 teams off and play two knockout rounds July 2-6 on the eve of the 2021 Gold Cup to determine the final three entrants.

The 12 Gold Cup teams that will take part in qualifying:

-- League A group third-place teams (Bermuda, Cuba, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago);
-- League B group runners-up (French Guiana, Guyana, Montserrat and St. Vincent & the Grenadines);
-- League C group winners (Bahamas, Barbados, Guatemala and Guadeloupe).

Draw. Unlike previous Gold Cups, where teams were placed into particular groups to account for their drawing power and place the USA and Mexico into opposite sides of the bracket, an actual draw will be held for the first time.

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said the draw "is a long time coming and fits with our objective to be a truly football-first organization. It will provide great anticipation for fans as they look forward to the return of international football in our region."

The draw for the 2021 Gold Cup (playoff pairings and groups for the final tournament) will take place on Sept. 28.
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