SANTIAGO.- Clubs from eleven Member Associations will have the opportunity to take the centerstage from this weekend as action gets underway in the inaugural CONCACAF Caribbean Shield tournament across three venues in Santiago, Dominican Republic from April 13-21, 2018.
At stake is a chance to qualify for the CONCACAF League but more than that, the eleven competing clubs will have the opportunity to showcase their talents in a CONCACAF developmental competition.
George Isaac, a former St Kitts/Nevis International and now the head coach of Cayon Rockets FC which will compete in Group C, believes his team stands to benefit hugely from their appearance in the tournament.
"I think it's an ideal opportunity for us to continue our development and push ourselves even further towards becoming a fully professional team. Every player in the Caribbean dreams about playing at a high level or in a proper CONCACAF tournament and we are getting that opportunity with the CONCACAF Caribbean Shield," Isaac said.
"Of course we want to win it and move onto the CONCACAF League but more than that, we think it's a great stage for a club from St Kitts/ If we do well here, it encourages the other clubs back home and it helps overall with the development of the league and then that extends to the national team because players will become better by playing in top quality competitions like this one and our national team can keep on improving," Isaac said.
Ramon Sealy, the captain for Bodden Town FC of Cayman Islands, echoed similar sentiments ahead of his team's first encounter in Group C against Cayon FC at the Universidad ISA on Friday.
"This is huge for us. We definitely needed a bit of a push as we've been stagnated for a little while. We have a lot of talent, not only in the Cayman Islands but around the Caribbean. Sometimes we don't get as much exposure as the professional clubs so a tournament like this which gives us a chance to showcase our abilities and talents is huge for us. It shows the development of the game in CONCACAF and hopefully we can use it as a platform to step up to the next level.
"You can expect a lot of hard work, good football and hopefully a lot of goals. I feel that if we can put our game plan on the day, then we can put together a few good results and move onto the next round," Sealy said.
The Cayman Islands National Team goalkeeper believes that a good run by Bodden Town will show clubs back in his home island that they too can aspire to playing in CONCACAF competitions.
"It will show the teams back home that we can compete at any level. We have the facilities, we have the players and we just need the mindset now to take it to the next level and us doing well can show them down there that if we can do it , then they can all do it and we should all be striving for that level," he said.
St Vincent and the Grenadines are being represented by Avenues United and they have their sights set on advancing to the final and taking the title. Their head coach Marvin Fraser is anticipating a strong run by his team in the competition.
"Our preparations have gone well. We won five of our six preparation games. We have studied the teams we are coming up against and we believe we can do well.
"Being here is an opportunity for us to showcase our young talent and give them the exposure so that they can be more professional when they get back home. They get to witness a competition like this and then get to go back home and pass on the knowledge and the experience to the other young players back home. This is a catalyst for us to develop the club going forward to develop and more persons will want to get involved and become more professional so they too can get out here and participate in competitions like this," Fraser said
"This is a brilliant idea to have a tournament like this. I really thank Concacaf for the vision that they have regarding this because it's no longer one road with the professional clubs but amateur clubs who don't have the sustainability can now get this opportunity to come out here and perform. They can move forward and professionalise their club and get the opportunity to participate in the CONCACAF League and even the CONCACAF Champions League later on," Fraser stated.
The top team from each of the three groups plus the best second placed team will advance to the semi-finals. The winner of the 2018 CONCACAF Caribbean Club Shield, once it fulfills CONCACAF Regional Club Licensing criteria, will have the opportunity to face the fourth-place finisher of the 2018 Caribbean Club Championship in a playoff match, to determine the fourth Caribbean representative in the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF League.
The Final of the CONCACAF Caribbean Shield will be played on April 21st at the Estadio Cibao FC in Santiago.