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League B of the inaugural Concacaf Nations League has a couple of surprising teams to go along with several teams that could vie for a promotion spot, against all odds. Despite finishing Nations League qualifying on the same amount of points as three teams that ended up in League A, Jamaica and El Salvador fell to League B by virtue of their goal differential over the four qualifying games.
Both of those nations would have expected to earn passage into League A in the qualifying round, but they must now look to be promoted to League A by finishing first in their group of four. As a reminder, each first-place team from the four groups is promoted to League A, replaced by the four teams relegated from League A. The bottom four teams from the groups in League B will be relegated to League C when the second version of the competition comes around in 2021-22.
Here's a look at a couple of players and teams to watch for when League B kicks off next month.
Los Cuscatlecos earned a spot in League B on the final day of Nations League qualifying, beating Jamaica at home. In addition, that kept the Reggae Boyz out of the top flight of the competition, while both teams qualified for the 2019 Gold Cup.
It was perhaps a sign of El Salvador moving in the right direction to end the decade, having not built upon their relative success during the 2010 World Cup qualifying. That year, the Central American side made it to the Hexagonal and finished in fifth place. However, they haven't made it back since, while making the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup in 2011, 2013, and 2017.
Another quarterfinal berth at the 2019 edition seemed likely after a win over Curaçao and a draw against Jamaica. But in their final group stage game, against an already eliminated Honduras, El Salvador got crushed by their rivals, 4-0. That let Jamaica and Curaçao through to the quarterfinals, sending Los Cuscatlecos home early.
With Carlos de los Cobos still at the helm, El Salvador is the favorite for promotion in their group, consisting of the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, and Montserrat. Anything less than elevation to League A for the next tournament will be a massive disappointment for a country trying to get their national team back where they believe they belong.
Jamal Charles | Grenada
It's been a long time since Shalrie Joseph roamed the field for the Spice Boys, helping the Caribbean country to outpunch their weight during World Cup qualifying. This year, Grenada just barely squeaked into League B of the Nations League, overcoming an opening day 10-0 defeat at the hands of Curaçao.
Grenada are long shots to earn a promotion to League A this year, but their group in League B might be the one that is most up for grabs. French Guiana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Belize are all that stand between Grenada and League A for the next edition of the Nations League.
For Grenada to get there, though, they will likely need the help of midfielder Jamal Charles, who has eight goals in 15 international appearances for the Spice Boys. The 23-year-old spent 2018 making a couple of appearances for the Real Monarchs, Real Salt Lake's USL side. Charles is currently in Honduras, playing for Real España.
If head coach Andrew Munro can find a way to keep Charles scoring goals at the same rate, then Grenada just might again punch above their weight and surprise everyone by finishing at the top of Group A in League B this year.
Managed by Jamaican Michael Johnson, Guyana have a huge task in front of them to earn a surprise promotion to League A this year. Mainly, Johnson's side will have to overcome the country that he played 13 times for — and who is the overwhelming favorite to finish first in Group C.
But after qualifying for their first-ever Gold Cup this summer, the South American side will have hopes of making waves in League B this year, in a group rounded out by Antigua and Barbuda and Aruba. Guyana finished seventh in the Nations League qualifying, just one spot out of making it to League A.
They were, however, aided by a change in the result against Barbados, who were ruled to have fielded two ineligible players during their 2-2 draw. That changed the result to a 3-0 victory for Guyana, who then just missed out on a Leauge A spot from a 2-1 loss to French Guiana on matchday three.
Guyana's first Gold Cup experience this summer went just about as expected, with a 4-0 loss to the USA followed up by a 4-2 defeat to Panama. Guyana were able to salvage a point, and third place, when they drew 1-1 against Trinidad & Tobago in the final game, a fine result for Johnson's side.
To get past Jamaica, Guyana will have to up their game significantly, with the Reggae Boyz having the luxury of calling upon several players who play in some of the best leagues in the world. But a step in the right direction for the Golden Jaguars would be finishing second in their group, solidifying their spot in League B.