The Caribbean Football Union’s 2015 Women’s World Cup Qualifiers begin later in May. The CFU has integrated the qualifiers with the 2014 Caribbean Women’s Cup; a new competition. The first round will consist of five groups comprising 19 teams, with each group playing one round at a designated site. Group play begins on May 21, with the five group winners and two best second-place finishers from Groups 1, 2, 4 and 5 advancing to an eight-team final round in Trinidad & Tobago from August 17-27. Trinidad advanced automatically to the final round as host.
The First Round Group and dates are below:
GROUP 1 (May 21-28, 2014)
Antigua & Barbuda (host)
St. Vincent & the Grenadines
U.S. Virgin Islands
GROUP 2 (May 21-28, 2014)
Puerto Rico (host)
GROUP 3 (May 21-28, 2014)
Turks & Caicos Islands (host)
St. Kitts & Nevis
GROUP 4 (May 28 – June 4, 2014)
GROUP 5 (June 16-23, 2014)
Dominican Republic (host)
Note: Bermuda was a late addition to Group 3 after the initial draw
Of particular interest to fans in the U.S. will be Groups 1 and 2, with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, respectively. Both are U.S. territories and since they qualify to play with U.S. passports, the teams could draw heavily from the mainland, funds permitting. Puerto Rico’s men’s national team used that same approach for years–particularly when the United Soccer League’s Puerto Rico Islanders were active.
In Group 3, the Cayman Islands have long been a promoter of the women’s game within the island nation and throughout the CFU and CONCACAF. Turks and Caicos, a British possession with just over 30,000 residents, are using the tournament to help the development of the women’s program on the islands. The Equalizer talked to Craig Harrington, the new technical director for the Turks & Caicos Islands Football Association, about their team and the tournament.
Harrington explained that the event is more than just about how his team plays on the field.
“What it means, the tournament will be a benchmark for us to see where we are at, not just from the players’ point of view, [but] the infrastructure, coaching, management and medical. We want world-class levels as best we can within our budget, player pool and resources,” he said.
The FA is completing two dormitories and has two lighted fields (one grass and one with turf) and a club house that the teams will utilize.
Unlike other countries, Turks and Caicos has not been traveling to or hosting other countries in friendly preparation matches, but has been training regularly at home.
“The coaching staff tries to work around players’ schedules to hold sessions three times a week and then an intrasquad game every Sunday,” Harrington said.
They also do fitness work indoors or on the beach on occasion for variety. Harrington said that they have players in their pool from the ages of 17 to 50, with those under 15 years of age training for an age-level CFU tournament as well. Turks and Caicos currently have a four-team local league which holds two separate championships each year, from January to May and from September to November.
In a different approach to other countries developing their women’s program, Turks & Caicos is not seeking players of T&C ancestry in North America or other regions. Besides the expense of recruiting and then flying players in from abroad for camps and games, Harrington said:
“The diaspora is not a route that I’m interested in with the women’s side. We want to develop good enough players, [that] with their grades, if they can go to college, that’s the immediate goal. We do want to do well in tournaments but we know we’re never going to be that massive powerhouse. The idea is to grow the pool of players as big as possible through schooling and technical aspects [which is his job as technical director] to make sure that these players’ technique is good enough, that if they have the grades, they can go play college soccer somewhere in the world. That will ultimately impact our national team and help us do better on the field, but we’re not going to leave the island, and start looking and go off to Brazil or other parts of the world, trying to see who qualifies for Turks & Caicos whatsoever. I look at it as what we have is what we got here. We have to do the very best with the people here and get to the level that we want to.”
Harrington plans to have two local players who are away at college in the U.S. to play later this month.
Group 4 should come down to the game between host Haiti and Cuba. Haiti is coached by FC Indiana head coach Shek Borkowski, who has been in charge for three years, bringing the side to Indiana for 5-6 months every year to train and play collegiate teams (including Notre Dame and Brigham Young University), occasional internationals (Australia) and professional sides (Seattle Reign last season and an entire WPSL Elite season in 2012). Borkowski told The Equalizer after he learned the results of the draw that “Surinam and Guadalupe shouldn’t pose too many problems. Cuba, however, is a complete unknown; they rarely travel.” Borwkoswki explained that “Cuba could be disorganized or they could be at home training against men’s sides; I have no idea.” The two sides did meet in Vancouver in January 2012, before Borkowski was appointed to the position, with the Haitians defeating Cuba 3-0.
In Group 5, Jamaica will most likely field ex-WPS and George Mason University forward Omolyn Davis, who has played club ball in the U.S., Russia and Kazakhstan.
Trinidad and Tobago awaits the seven CFU qualifiers from the first stage. By far the most experienced of the island nations, they held a four-match training camp in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this spring, defeating Charleston Southern University 7-0, the College of Charleston 1-0 and Coastal Carolina University 3-2, while drawing with top-side University of South Carolina 1-1.
The Soca Princesses, coached by Marlon Charles, were comprised primarily of local players, but also included U.S. based goalkeeper Linfah Jones, who plays at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
From the Trinidad tournament, three teams will advance to the eight-team CONCACAF finals in OCtober in Mexico, where three teams will qualify directly for Canada, with the fourth-place team playing the third-place team from CONMEBOL (South American Federation) for a final Women’s World Cup place. The Equalizer will, over the next few months, feature teams and players—particularly those with North American affiliations.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to The Equalizer. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released in 2012. Get your copy today. Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey
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