Is Jamaica the new player in Concacaf?

There have been false dawns in the Gold Cup before. They don’t always mean anything in the long run. Canada’s stunning capture of the 2000 title was supposed to spark a new era in Canadian soccer, yet except for an unlucky loss to the USA in a 2007 semifinal — also tinged with refereeing controversies — the game north of the border is still mired in mediocrity.

Jamaica played in its only World Cup in 1998 and 17 years later reached its first Gold Cup final with a decent contingent of MLS players, who would be expected to perform well on U.S. soil. In the final, Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas), Giles Barnes (Houston), Michael Seaton (on loan to Orebro from D.C. United) and Mattocks (Vancouver) carried the MLS banner, and they weren’t only the league players on the roster. Simon Dawkins, formerly on loan to the Quakes while he was with Tottenham, also started in the final. Nine MLS players were named to the original 23-man roster.

Head coach Winifred Schaefer, hired two years ago, brought together players who toil in North America, England and Jamaica. The next step forward will be to reach the Hexagonal, which is by no means guaranteed, and grind out results during a 10-game schedule of brutal conditions and quirky officiating. Consistency is a necessary asset, but so is confidence, and during the Gold Cup Schaefer instilled some defensive resiliency — Jamaica posted three straight shutouts — and confidence by beating the USA, 2-1, in the semifinals.

Where does the Gold Cup go from here?

Just hours before the tournament began, Concacaf issued a press release stating it had severed ties with Traffic Sports USA, the marketing agency that had controlled rights to Concacaf events and whose president, Aaron Davidson, was arrested and indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in the FIFA corruption investigations.

The deal included rights to the Gold Cup through 2021 and to the Concacaf Champions League through the 2021-22 season. Through an affiliated company, Inter/Forever Sports, Traffic had held rights to Concacaf events until 2003, when the marketing arm of MLS, Soccer United Marketing (SUM), obtained the rights. With the Traffic deal severed, Concacaf used its staff members and other personnel to handle the Gold Cup, but it has much work to do going forward with so much of its operations tainted by the investigations.

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