CHICAGO (April 30, 2021) - The U.S. Futsal National Team will aim to qualify for the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup by finishing among the top four teams at the rescheduled 2021 Concacaf Futsal Championship in Guatemala from May 3-9.
Here are five things to know about the regional tournament for the five-a-side, fast-paced sport:
This year marks the ninth edition of the FIFA Futsal World Cup. The first FIFA world championship for the sport was held in 1989 in the Netherlands with 16 invited countries, including the USA. Three years later, 13 countries qualified for Hong Kong 1993 through continental tournaments, while the USA, Costa Rica and Nigeria rounded out the field as invited teams. The World Cup has been held every four years since, with Concacaf staging its own qualifying tournament - the Concacaf Futsal Championship - starting in 1996.
This will be the fourth time that Guatemala will serve as host of the tournament (1996, 2008, 2012, 2021), while Costa Rica was home to the competition in 2000, 2004 and 2016.
Three countries have won the first six Concacaf Futsal Championships. The U.S. won the inaugural 1996 tournament and again in 2004, Guatemala took home the title in 2008 and Costa Rica claimed its first regional crown in 2000 and is the two-time defending champion (2012, 2016).
While never a champion, the USA’s third group stage opponent - Cuba - has seen the most success at this tournament, using the competition to qualify for five FIFA Futsal World Cups, matching the USA for most appearances on the world stage from Concacaf.
Top Four at Concacaf Futsal Championship (*Qualified for World Cup)
1996: 1st - *USA, 2nd - *Cuba; 3rd - Mexico, 4th - Guatemala
2000: *Costa Rica, *Cuba; USA, Mexico
2004: *USA, *Cuba; Costa Rica, Mexico
2008: *Guatemala, *Cuba; *USA, Panama
2012: *Costa Rica, *Guatemala; *Panama, *Mexico
2016: *Costa Rica, *Panama; *Guatemala, *Cuba
*Guatemala also qualified as host of the 2000 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
The Covid-19 pandemic significantly impacted the shape of the Concacaf Futsal Championship. Initially scheduled for May 2020, it was postponed along with the World Cup until 2021.
The original plan included 12 seeded teams drawn into four groups of three, with the fourth team in each group set to come from four play-in series between the eight lowest ranked Concacaf nations in futsal. However when the rescheduled dates were confirmed for May 2021, Concacaf announced the four teams to complete each group.
This April, Concacaf also announced that French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe had withdrawn from the competition, leaving the field at 13 teams. To balance the tournament, the groups will be as follows:
GROUP A: Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic
GROUP B: Panama, Mexico, Suriname
GROUP C: Costa Rica, Canada, Haiti
GROUP D: United States, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua
Despite the withdrawals, the format remains unchanged. After round-robin group play, the top two teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals. The four semifinalists will qualify to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania this September.
USA PATH TO THE WORLD CUP
U.S. Schedule – Concacaf Futsal Championship
Monday, May 3: USA vs El Salvador (4 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. local)
Tuesday, May 4: USA vs Nicaragua (4 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. local)
Wednesday, May 5: USA vs Cuba ( 4 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. local)
While the USA has never faced El Salvador or Nicaragua in the Concacaf Futsal Championship, the red, white and blue will be up for a challenge. Both countries have quality players who compete in domestic professional futsal leagues and have held numerous micro and full team camps over the past few months.
The USA is also aware of how well Cuba has navigated this tournament in the past. The teams have a history - the U.S. defeated Cuba to win the 1996 and 2004 competitions among their five meetings, though none since 2004:
USA vs. Cuba at the Concacaf Futsal Championship
July 28, 2004: D USA 1-1 Cuba (Group B)
July 31, 2004: W USA 2-0 Cuba (Final)
July 27, 2000: L USA 2-4 Cuba (Semifinal)
Sept. 3, 1996: L USA 3-5 Cuba (Group 1)
Sept. 7, 1996: W USA 7-3 Cuba (Final)
If the USA can finish top two in its group, it will face the first or second place team from Group A (Guatemala, T&T or Dominican Republic) for a ticket to the World Cup.
Knockout Round Schedule
Quarterfinals: Friday, May 7: 1D vs. 2A, 1B vs. 2C, 1C vs 2B, 1A vs 2D
Semifinals: Saturday, May 8: 1B/2C vs 1C/2B; 1D/2A vs 1A/2D
Third Place and Final: Sunday, May 9
EYES ON LITHUANA 2021
The first five FIFA Futsal World Cups featured 16 teams. It grew to 20 in 2006 and 2021 will be the third time that 24 teams will compete. Many had already earned their berths in early 2020 before all events were postponed. As it stands, 18 of the 24 participating nations have been determined
Africa: Angola, Morocco, Egypt
Asia: Iran, Japan, Uzbekistan
Europe: Czech Repubic, Kazakhstan, Lithuania (host), Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Russia
Oceania: Solomon Islands
South America: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela
The final six spots will come from the four nations qualifying from Concacaf and playoff matches to settle the final two spots from Asia (Iraq vs. Thailand, Lebanon vs. Vietnam) during the last week of May.