OTTAWA, Canada - Belize Forward Michael Salazar believes that 2019/20 CONCACAF Nations League qualifying can serve as the springboard to the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup for the Central American country.
Salazar, who played three matches in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup with Belize, is hopeful that the Jaguars can finish in the top 10 in the CNL and qualify for its second ever CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"Returning to the Gold Cup is one of our goals, it was a great experience the first time and we want to get back to that level," said Salazar in an exclusive interview with CONCACAF.com.
"It would be huge knowing that we've been there before and I think our experience would help," added Salazar.
Salazar is currently playing with the Ottawa Fury of the USL on loan from the Montreal Impact of MLS. In four starts last season on loan at Ottawa, he scored two goals and already has appeared in four matches this season with the Fury.
There is no doubt that playing time has given the 25-year-old a confidence boost.
"I'm getting playing time and that is helping my development. It's been hard work learning a new system, but playing all those minutes helps me when I am with the national team," said Salazar.
Belize will begin their CNL qualifying campaign in September versus the Bahamas before dates with Montserrat in October, Puerto Rico in November and then Guyana next March.
No matter the results, Salazar feels like the four matches will greatly help Belize take a step forward.
"These games are huge. We're used to only playing in tournaments, like the Copa Centroamericana and then maybe getting a friendly or two in a year. To have these international games will help us develop and improve," said Salazar.
Despite being only 25, Salazar already sees himself as the leader of the Belize National Team and wants to lead the national team to a brighter future.
"Long term I'd like to see us play with younger guys and develop together as a group. It would help to have players in the same age range and can take the national team to another level," conclude Salazar.