The embattled Trinidad and Tobago team were on Monday drawn against minnows Montserrat in the preliminary round of next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup but their legal wrangle with world governing, FIFA, could yet see them miss out on the confederation showpiece.
The regional powerhouses are one of 12 teams down to contest six matches in the two-round preliminaries from July 2-6, in an attempt to secure one of the three remaining spots for the Group Stage which gets underway four days later.
If T&T get past Montserrat, they will face the winner of the clash between Cuba and French Guiana in the second round, for a place in Group A of the competition where they will line up alongside the likes of reigning champions Mexico, El Salvador and Curacao.
However, T&T could see these hopes dashed if beleaguered TT Football Association president, William Wallace, fails to withdraw legal action against FIFA in the Trinidad and Tobago high court.
The FA was last week banned by FIFA over “grave violations of the FIFA Statutes” and CONCACAF, the continental governing body for football in North, Central America and the Caribbean, subsequently warned while T&T would remain in the draw for the interim, they would be replaced by Antigua if their suspension was not lifted by December 18.
With pressure mounting on Wallace to avoid further conflict with FIFA in order to spare Trinidad and Tobago further negative fallout, the administrator said last weekend he would make a decision this week on the future of the impasse.
Meanwhile, two-time Gold Cup finalists, Jamaica, have been drawn in Group C alongside Costa Rica, Suriname and a yet-to-be-determined qualifier.
Jamaica, the highest-ranked English-speaking Caribbean side at 56th in the FIFA charts, reached the final of the 2015 and 2017 competitions, losing to Mexico and United States respectively.
Last year, they were good enough to reach the final four before going down to the US.
Grenada has been drawn in a difficult Group D where they take on Honduras, Panama and Asian Cup champions, Qatar, who are guest competitors.
CONCACAF president, Victor Montagliani, said despite the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisers were anticipating a successful Gold Cup.
“I know that many communities in our region are going through challenging times and the thoughts of everyone at CONCACAF are with them,” Montagliani said.
“We expanded last year’s Gold Cup and it was a huge success in showcasing outstanding football from our region.
“We want to build on that for the 2021 edition and believe the introduction of the Prelims and an exciting new format for the Knockout Stage will provide a great spectacle next year.”
CONCACAF will announce venues for the showpiece in coming months.