The 2018 Concacaf Women's Championship schedule kicks off Thursday in Cary, North Carolina, with the USWNT facing off against Mexico. The tournament doubles as qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. It’s kind of a big deal, with two of the world’s top five teams involved, fighting for three and a half World Cup berths.
Here’s everything you need to know, from the Concacaf Women's Championship schedule and preview to why it matters and how to watch it.
What is the 2018 Concacaf Women's Championship?
The Concacaf Women's Championship is kind of two competitions in one. It serves as both the Concacaf World Cup qualifying tournament and the Concacaf Gold Cup, to crown the best women’s soccer team in the region.
This will be the 10th edition of the Gold Cup/Concacaf Women's Championship. The U.S. has won seven of the previous nine, with Canada the only other country to win the tournament. The Gold Cup used to be played every two years (just like the men’s Gold Cup), but has only been played once every four years since 2002.
The last time the U.S. failed to win the tournament was in 2010, when Mexico pulled off a huge upset in the semifinals, forcing the USWNT to qualify for the World Cup via a playoff with Italy.
The only other time the U.S. failed to win was in 1998, when it did not participate as it had already qualified for the 1999 World Cup as the host nation. The USWNT has never lost a home World Cup qualifier.
What is the Concacaf Women's Championship format?
The Concacaf Women's Championship involves the top eight teams from Concacaf. The U.S., Canada and Mexico were given automatic entry into the tournament while the other five teams had to qualify through either Caribbean or Central American competitions.
The eight teams were drawn two groups of four, after each team was placed in one of four pots based on FIFA ranking. The groups are as follows:
- United States
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Costa Rica
Each group will play a round-robin slate, with the top two from each group advancing to the four-team knockout stages. The winner of Group A will play the runner-up in Group B and vice versa. The championship game is slated for Oct. 17, with an equally important third-place match the same day.
Where is the Concacaf Women's Championship?
The Concacaf Women’s Championship will be held in three different locations, two of which are in Texas.
Group A, featuring the U.S. and Mexico, will be played in Cary, North Carolina, at the 10,000-seat Sahlen’s Stadium.
Group B, featuring Canada, will be played in Edinburg, Texas, (on the border with Mexico) at H-E-B Park, the home of USL club Rio Grande Valley FC Toros that holds 9,735 seats.
The knockout stage will be held in Frisco, Texas, at the home of FC Dallas, Toyota Stadium (20,500 seats).
What is the Concacaf Women's Championship schedule?
The Concacaf Women's Championship schedule is as follows (all times Eastern):
Group A (Cary, North Carolina)
- Oct. 4: Trinidad and Tobago vs. Panama, 5 p.m.
- Oct. 4: United States vs. Mexico, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 7: Panama vs. United States, 5 p.m.
- Oct. 7: Mexico vs. Trinidad and Tobago, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 10: Panama vs. Mexico, 5 p.m.
- Oct. 10: Trinidad and Tobago vs. United States, 7:30 p.m.
Group B (Edinburg, Texas)
- Oct. 5: Costa Rica vs. Cuba, 6 p.m.
- Oct. 5: Canada vs. Jamaica, 8:30 p.m.
- Oct. 8: Jamaica vs. Costa Rica, 6 p.m.
- Oct. 8: Cuba vs. Canada, 8:30 p.m.
- Oct. 11: Cuba vs. Jamaica, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 11: Costa Rica vs. Canada, 10 p.m.
Knockout Stages (Frisco, Texas)
- Oct. 14: Runner-Up Group A vs. Winner Group B, 5 p.m.
- Oct. 14: Winner Group A vs. Runner-Up Group B, 8 p.m.
- Oct. 17: Losers of semifinals, 5 p.m.
- Oct. 17: Winners of semifinals, 8 p.m.
Why does the Concacaf Women's Championship matter?
The Concacaf Women's Championship serves as the qualifying tournament for the 2019 World Cup in France.
The top three teams qualify automatically for the World Cup, making the third-place match as important — if not more so — than the final. The fourth-place team will play Argentina in a two-legged intercontinental playoff for the final berth in the 2019 World Cup.
The USWNT has only once failed to win this qualifying tournament, back in 2010. That year, the Americans had to face Italy (then ranked in the top 10) in an intercontinental playoff, as only two Concacaf nations were given automatic berths.
The U.S. and Canada, ranked No. 1 and No. 5, respectively, are massive favorites to reach the final and qualify for the World Cup with a game to spare. Indeed, USA-Canada has been the final of the tournament four out of five times both teams were in the field for World Cup qualifying (2010 being the lone outlier).
Canada, which qualified automatically as World Cup host, wasn’t in the tournament four years ago when the U.S. beat Costa Rica 6-0 in the final. That year, Mexico beat Trinidad and Tobago 4-2 (in extra time) to clinch qualification to the World Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago went on to lose to Ecuador in the intercontinental playoff 1-0 on aggregate. This year, the Women Soca Warriors are hoping to reach the World Cup for the first time ever, though they aren’t exactly receiving much support from the federation, as we detailed here.
How do you watch the Concacaf Women's Championship?
Fox has the English-language rights to the tournament while Univision has the Spanish-language rights to the tournament in the U.S.
All of the USWNT matches will be broadcast by either FS1 or FS2. JP Dellacamera, a recent winner of the National Soccer Hall of Fame’s Colin Jose Award, will call the matches with Aly Wagner, the former USWNT player who made history by calling men’s World Cup matches over the summer.
In addition to the Fox offerings, fans may want to check out Univision’s coverage on UDN for the Group A matches.
The USA-Mexico match on Thursday will be on FS2 because Fox wants everyone to know it finds postseason baseball more important than a World Cup qualifying match. (Fox actually lists the match as being on FS3, but I think it’s a typo.)
USA-Panama on Oct. 7 will be on FS1 and USWNT vs. Trinidad and Tobago will be on FS2 on Oct. 10.
Both semifinals will be on FS1 on Oct. 14. The third-place match will be on FS2 and the final on FS1 on Oct. 17, though if the U.S. ends up in the third-place match, don’t be surprised if that changes.
Matches can also be streamed on FOXSports.com and the FOX Sports App, but you’ll need the appropriate cable subscriptions to access them.
Who’s going to win the Concacaf Women's Championship?
The United States, as the defending World Cup champion and the No. 1-ranked team in the world, is the clear favorite to win the tournament. The team is in superb form, having not lost since July of 2017, a run of 21 matches. And playing in front of friendly crowds never hurts.
But don’t discount Canada, which is coming off a 1-0 win over Brazil in September. Christine Sinclair may be getting up there in age, but when she’s on the pitch, Canada is always a threat to score. That said, Canada will likely play Mexico in the semifinals, which is a much tougher match than the U.S. against Costa Rica (or maybe Jamaica).
The U.S. and Canada are virtual locks for World Cup berths; the other 1.5 berths are up in the air.
Mexico will be eyeing a third straight trip (fourth overall) to the World Cup (though they’ve yet to win a match there), but Costa Rica would love to make it back after reaching the World Cup for the first time ever in 2015. Both Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have never been to a World Cup, and while the former has a tougher road having to face both Mexico and the U.S. in the group stage, both will be striving for a spot in the semifinals to give themselves a chance.
When is the 2019 World Cup?
The 2019 World Cup begins June 7 in France and runs through the final on July 7. Sadly, the tournament will be mostly played in small venues across the country, instead of giving fans a chance the show out in force to support women’s football.
The World Cup draw will be held Dec. 8 to place the 24 qualified teams into six groups of four. The top two teams in each group and four of the top six third-place teams advance to the Round of 16.
Fox has the English-language rights to broadcast the tournament in the U.S. while Telemundo and Universo will show the tournament in Spanish.