In a move that might have been expected given Mexico’s withdrawal from participation in the Copa Libertadores in 2018, CONMEBOL and the FMF announced that FMF would not participate in the 2019 Copa America in Brazil, ending a streak of appearing in the tournament that stretched 10 editions and back to 1993.
However, instead of other teams from the Confederation for North American, Central American, and Caribbean football (CONCACAF) attending the tournament, CONMEBOL announced that Qatar and Japan were the invited teams for the 2019 tournament in Brazil. Both national teams, unlike El Tri, would be free of obligations to continental competition at that time since their major continental championship (the AFC Asian Cup) will finish by February 2019.
When asked for whom had declined permission to receive an invitation to attend Copa America, CONCACAF, fearing Mexico and a second team would not send first teams to its own Gold Cup, appeared to put the brakes on allowing Mexico to accept the invitation and mentioned it in its initial statement regarding the news of Mexico’s non-participation in the 2019 tournament.
When asked by ESPN, FMF general secretary Guillermo Cantu confirmed that CONCACAF had declined to give permission to FMF to participate because of the close proximity of the two tournaments would have meant that El Tri would have had to send two completely different sides to both.
Previous tournaments had seen more slightly more separation between Copa Oro and Copa America, but even in 2015 with several weeks separation between the Copa America and Copa Oro, Mexico had to send a “B” team to one of the tournaments.
When asked about whether or not El Tri and others in CONCACAF would want to return to the Copa America if the schedule permitted, Cantu seemed to give an indication that El Tri and other CONCACAF teams could return.
One possibility that could accommodate CONCACAF teams’ participation in the CONMEBOL feature tournament, according to Cantu was reducing the frequency of the Gold Cup from once every two years to once every four,
It is a possibility whose tradeoffs have not quite been explored, but would nevertheless fall in line with the schedule frequency of most other confederations’ continental tournament finals.
The CONCACAF Nations League explained.
Right now, there is plenty on the schedule of El Tri in 2019 with the Gold Cup and beginning of the new A League of the CONCACAF Nations League, which is set to begin in the September 2019 international window.
While Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, United States, and Trinidad and Tobago all qualified directly to the A League by virtue of their advancement to the final round of CONCACAF’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament, the remaining 34 CONCACAF teams who entered will begin a short four match qualifying tournament to determine the teams play in which level of the CONCACAF Nations League (League A, League B, League C). The qualifying tournament will finish in March 2019 with the top 10 finishers joining El Tri and the other Hexagonal participants in the 2019 Gold Cup. [Only Guatemala were denied entry into the Nations League.]
The top 6 teams at the end of the short tournament join the Hexagonal teams in League A of the Nations League, while the next 16 will take part in League B. The twelve worst finishers in the qualifying tournament would take part in League C.
In the Nations League itself at the League A, teams are divided into four groups of three teams each and play in a double round robin format . The winners of the groups in League A move onto a knockout tournament to determine the Nations League champion in 2020, while the bottom team in each group would be relegated to League B. In League B, groups would consist of four teams each, with the winners earning promotion to League A and the bottom placed teams relegated to League C. In League C, the winner of each of four three-team groups would be promoted to League B.
Where the tournament involves qualification for the Gold Cup and against FIFA opposition, the games will carry a weight equal to that of other continental and FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in the FIFA rankings. Nations League games themselves would carry a weight in the rankings closer to that of the friendlies El Tri would have otherwise played.
That does not mean that El Tri could afford to avoid taking the Nations League merely as preparation for the to-be-determined FIFA World Cup qualification tournament, as a poor run of form in the tournament could see Mexico (or any team) relegated out of League A and potentially out of an easy Gold Cup qualification position for the 2021 edition of the tournament (if such a tournament happens).