2020 CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship: Host, Dates, and Knock-Out Bracket Confirmed

See CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship: Costa Rica and Panama Out, Bermuda and Barbados In for current schedule and bracket details.

Update (31-Jan-2020):  THIS ARTICLE IS NO LONGER CURRENT FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:  

  • THE DATES FOR THIS TOURNAMENT HAVE BEEN CHANGED.  (They are now February 22nd to March 8th).
  • COSTA RICA AND PANAMA ARE NOT PARTICIPATING IN THIS TOURNAMENT.  THEIR GROUPS AND THE KNOCK-OUT BRACKET HAVE BEEN ALTERED.

Update (20-Dec-2019):  FIFA has confirmed that Costa Rica and Panama will be joint hosts for this cycle’s FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup, which will be held in August 2020 (FIFA.com). Not yet confirmed is how this will affect qualifying in CONCACAF.  Absent exceptional circumstances, the most likely result is that the number of open qualification slots will be reduced to 2, as Costa Rica and Panama will be given the host slot plus 1 slot from CONCACAF’s allocation.  Another uncertain wrinkle is whether Costa Rica and Panama will be participating in this CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship, as they are currently assigned to Group D (with Mexico) and Group F (with Haiti), respectively.  Given the timing of this announcement, right before the end-of-the-year holiday break, it is possible that these qualifying matters may not be resolved until January 2020.

On Tuesday, CONCACAF confirmed that the Dominican Republic will be hosting the confederation’s final qualifying tournament for next year’s FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. (CONCACAF.com)  As things currently stand, CONCACAF has three open qualifying slots, though that could change depending on who actually ends up hosting the U-20 WWC in 2020.

The qualifying tournament, which is officially known as the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship, is scheduled for February 15, 2020 to March 1, 2020, and in a departure from past tournaments, will feature twenty teams instead of the usual eight.  The tournament will have a Group Stage involving the top sixteen U-20 women’s national teams, based on historical rankings (CONCACAF.com).  Those sixteen teams will be divided into four standard round-robin groups of four.  The top three teams in each group will advance to the knock-out stage.

The knock-out stage will start with a Round of Sixteen that includes the twelve advancing teams from the Group Stage, plus four teams from a preliminary qualifying stage for teams outside the top sixteen.  (Wikipedia has a decent summary article on the preliminary qualifying stage.)  After the Round of Sixteen, the knockout round will proceed normally, with a Final to determine the champion and a Third Place match.

The above format is the “new normal” for all CONCACAF U-20 and U-17 Championships, on not only the women’s side, but also the men’s side, where it was first used for the 2019 CONCACAF U-17 Championship (Wikipedia).


THREE TICKETS (MAYBE?) AVAILABLE:  DESTINATION UNKNOWN

Although FIFA has yet to officially award hosting duties for next year’s U-20 WWC, Nigeria had been considered the most likely candidate.   However, the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) bid does not yet meet FIFA’s requirements, such as practice facilities, medical facilities, and security.  The NFF has until January 2020 to get everything in order to FIFA’s satisfaction. (News Agency of Nigeria, via guardian.ng)

FIFA President Gianni Infantino added a significant wrinkle to the hosting question when he visited Costa Rica on Tuesday.  According to a tweet from the Federación Panameña de Fútbol‘s official Twitter account (embedded below) and an article on FIFA.com, Infantino teased that Panama and Costa Rica could jointly host next year’s U-20 WWC.

Translation:

Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, declared, in his visit to San José (the capital of Costa Rica), that there are real possibilities that next year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup will be hosted jointly by Costa Rica and Panama.

Currently, CONCACAF is expected to have 3 full qualifying slots, which would go to the Semifinal winners and the winner of the Third Place match.

Expected Slot Allocation for the 2020 U-20 WWC*

  • Host: 1
  • AFC: 3 (Japan, Korea DPR, South Korea)
  • CAF: 2
  • CONCACAF: 3 (per Tuesday’s press release)
  • CONMEBOL: 2
  • OFC: 1 (New Zealand)
  • UEFA: 4 (France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain)

*No FIFA circular letter or other FIFA announcement exists that officially verifies the full slot allocations.  (cf. the German Wikipedia article for the 2020 U-20 WWC)

However, if the U-20 WWC ends up being hosted by two CONCACAF nations, (namely Costa Rica and Panama), those two nations would most likely be assigned the host slot, plus one other slot, which would most likely come from CONCACAF’s allocation of three open slots.

Thus, absent exceptional circumstances,** CONCACAF would have only two competitive slots.  So, under the current format of CONCACAF qualifying, only the semifinal winners would advance to the U-20 WWC.

**Here, exceptional circumstances would be a change in the format of the tournament, such as increase in the tournament field from 16 to 24 teams, or requiring Panama and Costa Rica to go through CONCACAF qualifying.

If only two competitive slots are available, then that would significantly narrow the qualification path for the U-20 USWNT as well as their Canadian counterparts:  Should both teams top their qualifying groups, they will most likely face-off in an all-or-nothing semifinal.


TOURNAMENT DETAILS

Dates:  February 15, 2020 to March 1, 2020

Host:  Dominican Republic

Host Time Zone:  Atlantic Standard Time (1 hour ahead of New York City)

Television Coverage:  Not Yet Known (at a minimum, all matches should be live-streamed, e.g., via YouTube)

Venues:  Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez (Santo Domingo), Estadio Panamericano, (San Cristóbal)

Built in the early 1970s, Estadio Olímpico Félix Sánchez is a traditional track and field stadium with a grass pitch inside its running track.  It is located in Santa Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.  (Google Maps link for location and photos)  The stadium has a full bowl with a seating capacity of 27,000.

The secondary facility, Estadio Panamericano, was built in 2003 and is located in San Cristóbal, which is just west of Santo Domingo. (Google Maps link for location and photosEstadio Panamericano has a seating capacity of 2,800 with one main stand.  Based on photos, the condition of the turf may be less than desirable (brown and/or worn spots).

Both stadiums have permanent lights, so night matches at each facility are possible.  The two stadiums will both host group and knock-out matches, up to the quarterfinals.  The semifinal matches, third-place match, and final will be contested only at Estadio Olímpico.

Expected Weather:  Santo Domingo, February Climate Averages (Wikipedia)

  • High Temperature:  85.3° Fahrenheit
  • Low Temperature:  68.4° F
  • Relative Humidity:  80.8%
  • Monthly Rain Total:  2.12 inches
  • Rainy Days:  5.9

Or, in other words, hot and humid.  At the average high temperature (85° F and average relative humidity (81%), the NOAA Heat Index would be 94° F in the shade, and could hit 100° F in direct sunlight.  (Wikipedia)  So, it is very possible that some daytime matches could have water breaks.

Sunset:  During the tournament, sunset will be roughly 6:40 to 6:45 p.m. local time. (TimeAndDate.com)


QUALIFIED TEAMS

As noted earlier, 16 teams qualified directly to the final knock-out stage, based on CONCACAF’s Rankings.  Back in April 2019, those 16 teams were drawn into 4 groups of 4 (CONCACAF.com).

The Draw Pots:

  • Pot 1:  United States (C1), Mexico (D1), Canada (E1), Haiti (F1)
  • Pot 2:  Costa Rica, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Honduras
  • Pot 3:  Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
  • Pot 4:  El Salvador, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands

The Groups:

  • Group C: United States, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Cuba
  • Group D: Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico
  • Group E: Canada, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador
  • Group F: Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Cayman Islands

Beyond the above Top Sixteen teams, ten other teams (out of 25) entered the preliminary qualification round.  Those teams were divided into two groups of five teams (designated “A” and “B”).  The top two teams in each of those groups advanced automatically to the final knock-out phase.  Those four teams were Grenada, Guyana, Saint Kitts & Nevis, and Saint Lucia.


GROUP STAGE MATCH SCHEDULE
Kick-off times and order of matches to be determined.

Saturday, February 15th
United States vs. Cuba (Group C)
Honduras vs. Dominican Republic (Group C)
Jamaica vs. Guatemala (Group D)
Canada vs. El Salvador (Group D)

Sunday, February 16th
Mexico vs. Puerto Rico (Group E)
Costa Rica vs. Nicaragua (Group E)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama (Group F)
Haiti vs. Cayman Islands (Group F)

Monday, February 17th
Dominican Republic vs. United States (Group C)
Cuba vs. Honduras (Group C)
El Salvador vs. Jamaica (Group D)
Guatemala vs. Canada (Group D)

Tuesday, February 18th
Puerto Rico vs. Costa Rica (Group E)
Nicaragua vs. Mexico (Group E)
Cayman Islands vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Group F)
Panama vs. Haiti (Group F)

Wednesday, February 19th
Dominican Republic vs. Cuba (Group C)
United States vs. Honduras (Group C)
Guatemala vs. El Salvador (Group D)
Canada vs. Jamaica (Group D)

Thursday, February 20th
Nicaragua vs. Puerto Rico (Group E)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica (Group E)
Panama vs. Cayman Islands (Group F)
Haiti vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Group F)


KNOCK-OUT STAGE MATCH SCHEDULE

The top three teams in each group advance to this stage, with the seeding based on their in-group ranking.  The winner of each group will play one of the four teams that advanced from the preliminary qualification round.

Saturday, February 22nd – Round of 16
Match 25:  1st, Group C vs. Saint Lucia
Match 26:  1st, Group E vs. Guyana
Match 27:  2nd, Group C vs. 3rd, Group E
Match 28:  2nd, Group E vs. 3rd, Group C

Sunday, February 23rd – Round of 16
Match 29:  1st, Group D vs. Grenada
Match 30:  1st, Group F vs. Saint Kitts & Nevis
Match 31:  2nd, Group D vs. 3rd Group F
Match 32:  2nd, Group F vs. 3rd Group D

(teams that played on Saturday get an extra day of rest)

Tuesday, February 25th – Quarterfinals
Match 33:  Winner-M25 vs. Winner-M28
Match 34:  Winner-M26 vs. Winner-M27
Match 35:  Winner-M29 vs. Winner-M32
Match 36:  Winner-M30 vs. Winner-M31

(one rest day)

Thursday, February 27th – Semifinals
Match 37:  Winner-M33 vs. Winner-M34
Match 38:  Winner-M35 vs. Winner-M36

(two rest days, including Leap Day)

Sunday, March 1st – Final and Third Place Match
Third Place Match:  Semifinal Losers
Final:  Semifinal Winners

Only two days of rest are guaranteed for all involved teams (1) between the end of the group stage and the start of the knock-out stage, and (2) between the semifinals and final or third-place match.

The below graphic shows the knock-out bracket, with all Round of Sixteen slots color-coded by group.


ADVANCEMENT SCENARIOS

The United States should not face any significant difficulty claiming the top spot in Group C.  In the Round of Sixteen, they will likely face Guyana, who should not pose any significant challenge.

Things get less clear for the Quarterfinals, as the USA’s opponent should most likely be the Pot 2 team from Group E, Jamaica.  But, there is a small yet significant possibility that Canada could be that team, especially if Canada mucks it up during group play.

However, Canada is much more likely to be the U-20 USWNT’s semifinal opponent.  As things stand now, a loss for either squad in that match should not be fatal to the losing team’s hopes for a ticket to the U-20 WWC.  However, if Panama and Costa Rica do end up hosting the U-20 WWC, then that semifinal could be an all-or-nothing affair for the border rivals.

Due to the groups and bracket seedings, the USA is guaranteed not to face Mexico, if at all, until the final or third-place match.  Yet, Mexico’s path to the final is far from guaranteed, even though they face Haiti, the weakest, historically speaking, of the top four teams.  In 2018, Haiti qualified for their first U-20 WWC by defeating Canada 1:0 in the Third Place match, after losing to the United States in a penalty kick shoot-out (Wikipedia).


FINAL THOUGHTS

Squad Rotation: This tournament is heavily compressed, with just one day of rest between most matches.  Between the tight schedule, having to play more matches, and the resulting dilution of difficulty due to expanding the field from 8 teams to 16 teams, expect to see extensive line-up changes by the United States, as well as Mexico and Canada, during both the group stage and knock-out stage, in order to manage players’ minutes.  Noteworthy:  The USA and Canada will have the benefit of an extra day’s rest between their Round of Sixteen and Quarterfinal matches, compared to Mexico.

Better Bracket Balancing:  In the future, the bracket should be tweaked so that the #1 overall seed (here, the United States), should expect to play the #4 overall seed (here, Haiti) in their semifinal match-up, instead of the #3 overall (here, Canada).  As things stand now, the #2 overall seed (here, Mexico) gets a historically much weaker opponent for their semifinal, than the #1 overall seed.