Easily the longest name of any of the 6 confederations, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, better known to soccer fans around the world as the CONCACAF, is the organizing body for soccer in North and Central America, and the Caribbean. Surprising to some fans, it also includes 3 members - independent nations of Guyana and Suriname and the French overseas department of French Guiana, from South America.
CONCACAF was founded on September 18, 1961 in Mexico City and is 1 of 6 confederations that make up FIFA. It is the third most successful FIFA confederation. On the men’s side, Mexico is the only member to win a FIFA tournament, the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, and the US men’s national team is the only team to medal at a FIFA World Cup, 3rd place at the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup. The US women’s national team has been dominant with 3 FIFA Women’s World Cup titles and 4 Olympic Gold Medals.
41 member nations – 27 from the Caribbean, 7 from Central America, 4 from North America, and 3 from South America, make up CONCACAF.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is the primary tournament for national teams in the region. The Gold Cup was first held in 1991 and is held every 2 years. 12 teams - 3 teams from North America, 5 teams from Central America, a 4 from the Caribbean, advance to the Gold Cup finals. The Central American Cup and Caribbean Cup serve as qualifying tournaments.
The Gold Cup winner represents the region at the FIFA Confederations Cup. The winners of the 2 previous tournaments play in the CONCACAF Cup to determine who advances. If the same team wins back-to-back tournaments they automatically advance.
The CONCACAF Champions League is the top tournament for domestic clubs. It is held annual with the inaugural tournament in 1962. It was originally known as the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup. The tournament has a group stage from August through October and knock rounds from March through May. The winner qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup.
24 teams - 9 from North America, 12 from Central America, and 3 teams from the Caribbean, qualify for the tournament each year.
CONCACAF nations have hosted the FIFA World Cup on 3 occasions. Mexico hosted the first World Cup to be held outside of Europe or South America in 1970. They became the first country to host 2 World Cups when they hosted the 1986 World Cup. Azteca Stadium is 1 of 2 venues (along with Maracana Stadium in Brazil) to host 2 FIFA World Cup final matches. The United States hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup was hugely successful helping to launch Major League Soccer. The 1994 tournament still holds the record for attendance with 3.6 million fans, despite only featuring 24 teams.
The FIFA World Cup appears set to return to CONCACAF with a joint bid from the United States, Mexico, and Canada for the 2026 FIFA World Cup submitted along with a bid from Morocco the only other one under consideration.