It's that time again. Every two years, the football federations of North and Central America get together for that biennial tradition, Let's Screw the Little Guys.
There had been talk that BMO Field might get to host a couple of matches of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Unfortunately, Jack Warner and his cronies made sure that wouldn't happen: most likely the idea of a bunch of soccer-mad Torontonians snapping up tickets in record time and ensuring a dramatic, exciting, and lucrative crowd no matter who was playing made too much sense to the suits in the federation.
Instead, CONCACAF has opted for the shotgun approach. Thirteen total venues. Thirteen! The schedule hasn't been released, but assuming that a) they're still going three groups, four nations per group, and b) the group matches are spaced apart equally, we can all look forward to a transcontinental journey in the name of soccer.
Suppose you're die-hard Canada fan living in Vancouver who wants to hop on the Greyhound and follow les rouges on a championship run. Well, depending on the draw you could go to Los Angeles for one group match, Columbus for the second, and Miami for the third. So having crossed the continential United States diagonally, you see your boys have qualified for the quarterfinals. In for a penny, in for a pound, so you hop on a coach for Philadelphia to see your squad prevail in a tense match. You've come too far to back out now, so off you go to Chicago for the semifinal, and when they win that you just have to go to New York to see the final match and your side go on to Gold Cup glory.
Then you go back to Vancouver, having completed a total round trip, stadium to stadium, of 16,808 kilometres, and inform your children that not only are they not going to university but you've actually sold them to medical science in order to pay for your trip which included, assuming you travelled by Greyhound the whole way and took the maximum 14-day advance booking discount, US$566.25 before tax in bus fare.
Great job, Jack Warner. Issued a mandate to price out all but the wealthiest fans from your premier tournament, you have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. Have a city host a group like you did in 2007? No, that's too logical for CONCACAF! Better to spray all your matches across Hell's half-acre!
This is, of course, terrible news for all the small nations. Not many fans can afford that sort of travel investment, and the casual fans will be turned off by the logistical nightmare. If you live in Trinidad and Tobago, you might have been able to go to Seattle and watch the group matches, if you were drawn there. But going to Seattle, then Washington, and then Boston, with either turnarounds turning your life into one long bus trip or spending thousands of dollars on airfare? How many people are going to do that?
The Americans will be fine because it's an American tournament, and the Mexicans will be fine because there are Mexicans everywhere. If you support any other nation, though, the message is "see ya, wouldn't want to be ya."