CONCACAF (finally) postposes its men's Olympic qualifying tournament because of coronavirus

CONCACAF, soccer's governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, finally got around to postponing its men's qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympics. (Charly Triballeau/Getty)

CONCACAF, quite possibly the worst-run sporting organization on the planet — yes, including FIFA and the International Olympic Committee — fittingly became among the last to postpone a major event in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic when soccer’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean finally got around to scrapping its men’s Olympic qualifying tournament, which was set to begin March 20 in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Friday morning.

National teams from around the region had already begun setting up base in Guadalajara earlier this week ahead of the competition. The United States under-23 squad had been training there since Monday. But the Americans and other countries were left in the dark about CONCACAF’s pans (or lack thereof) on Thursday, as sports officials around the world followed the NBA’s lead and pressed pause on their events effective immediately. But early Friday, the U.S. delegation was still on the ground in Mexico.

Major League Soccer, whose clubs employ many of players on CONCACAF’s U-23 teams, was the first North American sports league after the NBA to announce a suspension when it announced a 30-day pause first thing Thursday morning. The NHL and Major League Baseball followed in short order, as did UEFA’s Champions League. The NCAA cancelled March Madness just hours after saying its men’s and women’s basketball tourneys would be played in empty arenas.

U.S. soccer cancelled upcoming friendly games for its men’s and women’s national teams. The English Premier League originally said it would play a full slate of games this weekend, with fans in attendance, before backtracking furiously after several players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19. By Friday morning, following an emergency meeting, the Prem was on an indefinite hiatus, too. The Boston Marathon, golf’s Masters, athletics, badminton, canoeing, motor sports, and tennis events — you name it — all of it was scrapped or postponed before CONCACAF’s announcement.

No, somehow CONCACAF, which inexplicably managed to suspend its own Champions League Thursday while staying mum on the status of Olympic qualifying — “we are continuing to discuss arrangements for other upcoming CONCACAF competitions and will make a further public statement in due course,” it said in a statement — left its member associations and the public in limbo for more than 24 hours before finally getting around to what was always inevitable by formally pulling the plug.

There’s no doubt that it’s the correct and responsible thing to do. It was the only thing to do. The question is, what took them so long?

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