The High Price of CONCACAF’s Low Investment in Women’s Soccer

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The 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship has been strange. Both Jamaica and Panama have made the semifinals while Costa Rico and Mexico–two teams that were expected to make the cut–are now out of the tournament. The only really expected result that has held is both Canada and the US making the semifinals.

Well that and CONCACAF federations sending teams that are ill-prepared due to a lack of resources.

As Charles Olney wrote in Cuba, CONCACAF, and the Future of Women’s Soccer,

“Cuba, meanwhile, hadn’t played in three years since the start of this year’s campaign, which means significant portion of their roster had never played a single international game before this year. Nor do they have a meaningful domestic league in which to hone their skills during these significant gaps. And given Cuba’s isolated status, it would be quite difficult for players to play internationally, even for those few with sufficient talent to potentially make the case.”

CONCACAF and the 41 federations that make up the confederation, have a long history of not doing much to promote women’s soccer. The Panamas, Cubas, Jamaicas of the world have seen limited support over the years.

Which is a shame, because there’s a lot of opportunity out there. Look at Panama, who no one would accuse of over preparation, but who nevertheless have featured one of the tournament’s break out stars in Yenith Bailey. The 17 year old Panamanian goalkeeper has launched a thousand tweets with some of her show stopping saves. She has been rock steady on a team that surprised much of the world by advancing to the semifinals.

Both fans and media alike have been captivated by her the way that her performances have defied the odds, keeping her team in games that no one thought they would be in.

Jeff Kassouf of Equalizer Soccer wrote about the young goalkeeper in,Yenith Bailey is the hero Concacaf needs right now, even if not the one it deserves.

Men In Blazers tweeted about how great she was.

FIFA.com quoted Carli Lloyd as saying, “Very, very impressive,” said Lloyd after the final whistle. “I think I went up to her a couple of times to tell her how well she was doing. She played a fantastic game and I hope that gives her lots of self-confidence.”

Twitter has been awash in tweets that she should play in the NWSL, or that colleges should be offering her scholarships to play in the US. And while I watched the tweets fill up my timeline I started to think about how unfair all this feels. How tournaments like this always serve as a showing of the haves – mostly the US and Canada – and the have nots.

Because players like Yenith Bailey are out there in the confederation. And tournaments like this serve as a reminder that if the federations of CONCACAF wanted to – if they cared even a fraction as much as they do about the men’s national teams – they could make true investments in the women’s national teams. It wouldn’t take much, but it would mean that players like Bailey wouldn’t just shine once in a blue moon but year after year.

Watching this tournament, it’s clear that there’s a cost to spending no money. If you have no camps, and spend most of every four year cycle forgetting that you even have a women’s program, it puts everything on the players when the event finally does roll around. You might get a miracle here and there, but we should expect so much more.

Image courtesy of Corri Goates