Months after the end of the qualifying stage of the first edition of the Concacaf Nations League, league play begins on Thursday. The 41 teams in Concacaf are split into three different leagues, with the teams in League A battling for a spot in the semifinals of the entire tournament. Countries in League B and C will be aiming for promotion, looking for an opportunity to potentially win the tournament in its next edition.
There are 10 League B and C games on FloFC on Thursday and Friday, while there are just two League A contests. All of those games can be seen live in the USA on the website. Find the schedule right here.
The seeded teams in each of the groups in League A are sitting out for these rounds of games. Which means that the two other teams play against each other twice. So there will be plenty of drama to go around, as picking up two losses would essentially mean relegation to League B for the next edition of the tournament.
Here is a preview of the first two games from League A.
Bermuda vs Panama
Thursday, September 5: 6 PM ET
There's a clear hierarchy in Group B of League A this year. Mexico, always a co-favorite of any men's Concacaf tournament with the USA, should win this group. Panama are likely to slot into the second spot in this group, and should probably even be favored for Thursday's game in Bermuda. So if Bermuda wants to avoid relegation, then a positive result at home against Panama is a must.
Américo Gallego called up much of the same group from Panama's recent appearance at the Gold Cup. That worked well enough for Los Canaleros, who finished second in their group and then lost to Jamaica in the quarterfinals.
Roman Torres isn't available, so Panama will be missing some experience in defense. And for sure, Nahki Wells and Zeiko Lewis can cause some danger for Bermuda. Wells scored twice in the recent Gold Cup and has a wealth of experience playing in the English Championship. Lewis, who was drafted by the New York Red Bulls in 2017 but never latched on, has been scoring for the Charleston Battery in USL this year.
The biggest question for the Panama side should be where the goals might come from. Gabriel Torres has 16 international goals to his name, which is tops in this group of Panamanian players. That's not a ton though, for a player who is 30 years old. The favorites might need to lean on Armando Cooper for help in the goal-scoring department on the road.
Prediction: Bermuda get on the board, but Panama win 2-1, setting the course for six points from the first two games.
Martinique vs Trinidad & Tobago
Friday, September 6: 6 PM ET
If there is maybe a clear favorite in the first Group B game, there's no such favorite in the first game of Group C. Honduras is the seeded team in this group, but is coming off of a Gold Cup in which they finished last in the group. Martinique had a decent showing at the Gold Cup, after their opening loss to Canada. T&T, meanwhile, had a similar showing to Honduras, finishing behind Guyana to come last in their group with the USA and Panama.
So really, this game in Martinique is up in the air on Friday. Both teams should go into the contest knowing they can take three points, which should make for an intriguing matchup. T&T head coach Dennis Lawrence has a squad which might appear to be a bit stronger than their opponents, but there are still plenty of question marks in his side.
Maybe the most pressing question is who will start up top for T&T? The best option right now might be Ryan Telfer, who has scored several goals this year playing for York9 in the Canadian Premier League, on loan from Toronto FC. At the same time, though, Telfer has just become eligible to play for the Soca Warriors and might need some time to gel with his new teammates.
The other options are Daniel Carr, who plays in Cyprus, and Jameel Perry, who plays for Police FC in Trinidad and Tobago. Further back, Lawrence can rely on MLS players Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones to add some skill to the team, but there are far too many questions about this side to claim them to be favorites against Martinique.
Meanwhile, for Martinique, it's all about how far Kévin Parsemain can carry the side. The country's all-time leading scorer needs to be at his best on Friday for Martinique to get a valuable win, one which could help them stave off relegation, or maybe even help them win the group. If the Ayutthaya United forward can get on the scoresheet, then look out for Les Matinino.
Prediction: Parsemain does score, and it's a late winner in a tight 1-0 contest. Everything to play for in the return trip to Trinidad & Tobago next week.