Qualifying for the 2017 Caribbean Cup and the Caribbean Football Union's representatives in the 2017 Gold Cup took a little longer than anticipated thanks to the intervention of Hurricane Matthew. But the uncertainty regarding the final standings of the qualifying tournament was entirely down to the CFU.
After Haiti beat St. Kitts and Nevis, 2-0, on November 13, the Haitian players and staff celebrated as though they had achieved their goal: a place in the CFU playoff for a shot at a Gold Cup berth. But there was cause to doubt their claim as the only competition rules anyone seemed able to find allowed for either Haiti or Antigua and Barbuda to make a compelling case for their place in the playoff.
Ultimately, the ruling will come down to the CFU Director of Competition Latoya DaCosta's interpretation of the rules— Caribbean Football (@caribbeanfooty) November 14, 2016
Haiti and Antigua & Barbuda both have 3 points and -1 GD. Next classification? Goals scored according to regulations. pic.twitter.com/xe3STEnq62— Nathan Carr (@caribbeanftbl) November 14, 2016
This would mean Haiti advance to the playoffs over Antigua & Barbuda as they have scored more goals in group play. https://t.co/slKNJi01i4— Nathan Carr (@caribbeanftbl) November 14, 2016
The automatic Caribbean qualifiers for the 2017 Gold Cup had already been determined: Curacao, French Guiana, Jamaica, and Martinique will be at next summer's CONCACAF showpiece tournament. But there is a possible back-door route to the competition: three of the four second-placed teams from the final Caribbean Cup qualifying group stage will play each other to determine which of them will represent the CFU in a playoff against the fifth-placed team from the 2017 Copa Centroamericana. And the winner of that playoff will be added to the 2017 Gold Cup field.
At the end of the final phase of CFU qualifying for the Caribbean Cup finals, Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda were tied on points and goal difference. And there were regulations in circulation that argued in Haiti's favor (most goals scored) and Antigua's (most goals/wins in regulation time).
The CFU does appear to have reached a decision, but that decision has not been communicated as one might have hoped. Instead of a clear and conclusive statement from the region's governing body, the news was broken by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association - which announced T&T would be hosting the CFU Gold Cup qualifying playoff in January 2017:
That is, at least, a measure of certainty.
The early-January tournament could mean the New York Red Bulls' Derrick Etienne has a short off-season. He won his first two caps for Haiti during the recently-concluded November internationals, and will surely be considered for the squad that is summoned to play in Trinidad next year.