As you may have read previously on this blog, I have been doing a Football Manager-based series where I have been managing the Barbadian national team to some relative glory (the latest part of the series can be found HERE). It was whilst writing up these series of blogs and doing general research for it, that I have become interested in Caribbean and CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) international and club football in general. It’s an area of football that I have little knowledge about, and so I wanted to know more about it and its club football, and how it all fits into the CONCACAF pyramid. This blog will hopefully be the start of a number of future blogs that will focus on other regional competitions throughout the world of football, either for club or international teams, that perhaps don’t get the media attention they perhaps deserve.
The first regional tournament I decided to look at is the Caribbean Club Shield, as this is a club competition that directly involves Barbadian clubs within the CONCACAF umbrella.
Brief History of the Caribbean Club Shield
The Caribbean Club Shield (CCS) is the secondary club tournament organised and ran by the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), who also organise the Caribbean Club Championship (CCC) – a blog for that competition can be found HERE. Both of these tournaments are part of the wider CONCACAF club tournaments, with both of the Caribbean competitions filtering into the CONCACAF League, the secondary tournament for North American club football (CONCACAF’s version of the Europa League) behind CONCACAF’s flagship club competition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
This competition was established in 2018 as part of the CFU’s wider reforms to help promote and improve the standard of football within the region. Whereas the CCC has teams from fully professional leagues competing within it, the CCS is a tournament which have clubs from countries which are striving towards professionalism. In the words of the CFU, “from non-professional leagues which are working towards professional standards” As a result, this is a bigger tournament in terms of the number of teams competing within it as the champions of all CFU-affiliated countries (bar the four largest leagues in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago, who compete in the CCC) can qualify to play in the tournament. However, despite being able to send a representative to the tournament, a number of the CFU countries haven’t yet taken up their places within the tournament so far for some reason or another. In addition, as the years progress, if certain leagues are deemed ‘professional’ enough by CFU, their teams could potentially compete in the Club Championship rather than the Club Shield in the future.
The Tournament Structure
Unlike other continental club competitions that play their fixtures throughout the season, the Caribbean Club Shield is organised as a separate tournament-style format with all the games being played over a period of a couple of weeks in April, and located within a host country. In the inaugural tournament organised in 2018, the host nation was the Dominican Republic, whilst the 2019 (and the scheduled but cancelled 2020 edition) of the tournament were held on the southern Caribbean island of Curaçao. This results in less disruption for the domestic leagues, and allows enough time for qualifiers to be determined for the CONCACAF League played later in the year.
In the previous three competitions, the opening phase of the tournament has seen teams divided into four groups (varying between three and four teams per group) with teams playing each other just once. At the end of the group phase, the top-placed sides in each group then progress to the semi-final stage of the competition. This then becomes a straight knockout contest with an eventual winner crowned in the final. As all the knockout ties are just one legged due to being hosted in a neutral venue, extra time and penalties are used to determine a winner to progress to the next round.
The 2019 edition of the CCS was slightly different to the previous year’s format as it allowed the top two sides in each group to progress to a quarter-final stage in the knockout phase. However the 2020 edition was scheduled to return to the same format as the 2018 edition with just the group winners progressing to the knockout stage of the tournament, and just having a semi-final round and then a final match.
The winner of the Caribbean Club Shield then qualifies to play a one-legged play-off (at a neutral venue) against the fourth-ranked side in the completed Caribbean Club Championship in May. The winner of the play-off then qualifies for that year’s CONCACAF League preliminary round which then starts in August.
As mentioned previously, 27 members of the CFU member associations, which are classed as non-professional leagues, can elect to send their league champions to take part in the CCS. Below are the nations with their respective top-flight leagues from which the champions would come from.
|AIA||Anguilla||AFA Senior Male League|
|ATG||Antigua & Barbuda||A&B Premier Division|
|ARU||Aruba||Aruban Division di Honor|
|BAH||Bahamas||BFA Senior League|
|BRB||Barbados||Barbados Premier League|
|BER||Bermuda||Bermudian Premier League|
|VGB||British Virgin Islands||BVIFA National Football League|
|CAY||Cayman Islands||Caymen Islands Premier League|
|CUB||Cuba||Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol de Cuba|
|CUW||Curaçao||Curaçao Promé Divishon|
|DMA||Dominica||Dominica Premier League|
|GUF||French Guiana||French Guiana Honor Division|
|GRN||Grenada||GFA Premier League|
|GLP||Guadeloupe||Guadeloupe Division of Honor|
|GUY||Guyana||GFF Elite League|
|MTQ||Martinique||Martinique Championnat National|
|PUR||Puerto Rico||Liga Puerto Rico|
|SKN||Saint Kitts & Nevis||SKNFA Premier League|
|LCA||Saint Lucia||SLFA First Division|
|SMN||Saint-Martin||Saint-Martin Senior League|
|VIN||Saint Vincent & the Grenadines||SVGFF Premier Division|
|SMA||Sint Maarten||Sint Maarten Senior League|
|TCA||Turks & Caicos Islands||Provo Premier League|
|VIR||US Virgin Islands||US Virgin Islands Premier League|
In the near future, it is possible for an additional four leagues to send their champions to the tournament should their respective countries be awarded CFU membership, which does seem increasingly likely. The Dutch-controlled islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius, alongside the French overseas departments of Saint-Barthélemy and Saint Pierre & Miquelon (which despite the islands being located off the Canadian coast would be accepted as part of the CFU just like fellow Atlantic Ocean-based island Bermuda was).
- Saint Pierre & Miquelon
- Sint Eustatius
In reality, only about 1/2 of the nations who can send their champions to the tournament have actually accepted the invitation to compete in the previous version of the Club Shield. In 2018, only 12 teams took part in the inaugural tournament, whilst 13 teams competed in the 2019 edition. The 2020 edition would have seen the largest number of teams so far with 15 teams had it taken place. It is hoped that the 2021 version of the CCS will see an increase again, with another change of format probably needed should more than 16 teams decide to take part.
- 2018: Club Franciscain (MTQ)
- 2019: Robinhood (SUR)
- 2020: CANCELLED
There have only been two winners of the tournament so far, with the 2020 edition of the tournament being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first winners of the Caribbean Club Shield was the Martinique-based side, Club Franciscain, who managed to beat Surinamese side Inter Moengatapoe 2-1 in the final held in the Dominican Republic. Coming from 0-1 down after conceding an opener after just five minutes, first-half goals from Martinique international players Djénhael Maingé (who scored four goals throughout the tournament) and Yann Thimon (who had scored five goals), were enough for the (then) 17-time Martinique champions to lift the trophy. An impressive and somewhat fortunate title for CF who almost failed to progress out of the group had Curaçao’s champions Centro Dominguito not conceded an 89th minute equaliser to the Cayman Islands’ Bodden Town, to allow the Martinique side to finish top of the group instead of the Curaçao side.
Club Franciscain’s route to winning the 2018 trophy:
- Group C: Centro Dominguito (CUW) 1-2
- Group C: Cayon Rockets (SKN) 6-0
- Group C: Bodden Town (CAY) 5-2
- Semis: Real Rincon (BOE) 2-0
- Final: Inter Moengotapoe (SUR) 2-1
In the 2019 final, the defending champions of Club Franciscain reached the final once again and faced yet another Surinamese team, this time in the form of Robinhood, a side they had finished above and beaten 3-1 in the group stage of the competition. Although the outcome was different for the Martinique side with the Paramaribo-based side scoring the only goal of the game through an Alan da Costa goal after 20 minutes played. In addition, they also had the tournament’s top goalscorer of Surinamese international forward Stefano Rijssel (who had achieved his second consecutive year as top scorer having scored six goals for Inter Moengotapoe in 2018), who scored four goals during the event. From my biased Barbadian point of view, Weymouth Wales managed to reach the semi-finals of the competition having beaten Santiago de Cuba in the quarter-finals, before being defeated by the eventual champions 0-3.
Robinhood’s route to winning the 2019 trophy:
- Group D: Club Franciscain (MTQ) 1-3
- Group D: Dakota (ARU) 4-1
- Quarters: Village Superstars (SKN) 1-1 [4-3 on pens]
- Semis: Weymouth Wales (BRB) 3-0
- Final: Club Franciscain 1-0
Both trophy winners have also managed to progress to the CONCACAF League by winning their respective playoff games against the fourth-ranked team in the Caribbean Champions Cup. In 2018, Club Franciscain managed to beat Central FC of Trinidad & Tobago 2-1, whilst Robinhood needed a penalty shootout to overcome Haitian side Real Hope after drawing 1-1.
Alas neither side had got further than the round of 16 in the Scotiabank CONCACAF League as they agonisingly lost close encounters on both occasions. Club Franciscain lost their tie against the fabulously named Nicaraguan side Walter Ferretti on penalties after two legs which ended 1-0 to the respective home side. Whereas Robinhood managed to win their preliminary round fixture on away goals after drawing their second leg away to Haitian side Capoise 1-1, following a goalless draw in Suriname in the first leg. They then exited the competition 2-3 on aggregate to Panamanian side CA Independiente de La Chorrera (also known as CAI), having managing to score an injury-time equaliser in their 1-1 home draw before falling 1-2 at the Estadio Agustín Sánchez in La Chorrera.
2020 Cancelled & 2021 Proposed Editions
Shown below are the teams who had qualified and groups that were scheduled to have played in Curaçao for the 2020 tournament, before it was initially postponed and eventually cancelled in late August 2020 by CONCACAF. 15 teams from 15 associations would have taken part in the competition – the highest number of teams taking part since the tournament began. Defending champions Robinhood did not qualify for the tournament with Inter Moengotapoe having reclaimed the SVB Topklasse title in the 2018-19 season and being Suriname’s representative, although Club Franciscain would have competed in their third consecutive tournament as Martinique’s representative. Barbados’ representative would have been the 2018-19 BFA Premier League champions, Barbados Defence Force.
Even though the 2021 edition is still pencilled-in within the CONCACAF football schedule to take place for April 2021, no host nation has been selected as of yet by CONCACAF/CFU, and the various champions from CFU affiliates who will compete in the tournament have yet to be confirmed also. These factors should be decided upon by early 2021 should the competition be given the go-ahead by the governing bodies.
There concludes my initial delve into the Caribbean Club Shield competition, with the next focus logically being the Caribbean Club Championship which is also ran by the CFU. Hopefully the situation around the world will subside and such regional competitions like the CCS can recommence in 2021 after such a horrendous year due to this global pandemic. I will certainly be keeping an eye out on the news to find out where the next tournament will be held, and which teams will take part in it (probably the same teams as the 2020 event considering a number of the Caribbean leagues were cancelled throughout 2020). If you would like to know more about football in the region, the following sources of information are very useful:
- CONCACAF Website: https://www.concacaf.com/
- CFU Website: https://www.cfufootball.org/
- Football in The Caribbean Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/CaribbeanSoccer
- Caribbean Football Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/caribbeanfooty
I love such competitions and tournaments like this, and wish we could have more of them in European competition, especially for the clubs who play in leagues that are the lower end of the UEFA coefficient rankings. I would love to see Cymru Premier clubs take part in a some sort of Western European competition or a ‘lower ranked’ European trophy taking on clubs from Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Latvia etc. Although the Scottish Challenge Cup is somewhat fulfilling that desire currently by facing teams from the other four nations of the Celtic Isles.