Thirty-two men’s national association football teams from across the globe will soon be in Qatar to participate in the 2022 FIFA World Cup for national pride and glory. Unfortunately, no Caribbean Football Union association member has qualified to participate in this year’s billion-dollar tournament. In fact, since the original tournament held in Uruguay in 1930, only four Caribbean football teams have participated in what for many now is a month of delightful football madness. The four Caribbean football teams to participate in a FIFA World Cup competition held every four years since the inaugural tournament except in 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War include Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago.
CUBA in the FIFA World Cup – Quarterfinals (1938)
The Cuba National Football Team was the first Caribbean football team to participate in the FIFA World Cup, which they did in 1938. Their qualification came about as a result of the decision to hold the third World Cup tournament in France.
The decision to hold the tournament in France was poorly received in the Americas, who felt the tournament should have returned to their side of the globe after the second one was held in Italy. Thus, all nations in South America except Brazil withdrew, and all CONCACAF nations except Cuba withdrew. Thus, the two qualified by default. The tournament was held as a straight knock-out tournament of 16 nations. Once the tournament got on the way, the Cuban team defeated Romania in a replay 2–1 after drawing against them 3–3. They were then eliminated in the quarter-finals by Sweden, 8–0. Cuba has not returned to the World Cup since. They have, however, finished second in the Caribbean Cup in 1996, 1999, and 2005 and won the 2012 Caribbean Cup.
HAITI in the FIFA World Cup – Round 1 (1974)
The second Caribbean football team to participate in the FIFA World Cup was the Haiti National Football Team in 1974. Held in then West Germany, the Haitian team didn’t get beyond round one and has not made another appearance in the FIFA World Cup.
However, it should be noted that they surprised the football world in their debut game when star forward Emmanuel Sanon scored to give Haiti a lead over Italy, at the same time ending Dino Zoff’s still-standing record run of 1142 minutes without conceding a goal in international matches. They eventually lost 1–4 and would lose to Poland (0–7) and Argentina (1–4). Their most successful football tournament participation was winning the 2007 Caribbean Cup. More recently, they have placed third in the 2012 and 2014 Caribbean Cup.
JAMAICA in the FIFA World Cup – Round 1 (1998)
The third Caribbean football team to participate in the FIFA World Cup was the Jamaica National Football Team in 1998. While this Jamaica team, like Haiti, didn’t get beyond round one of the tournaments held in France, Jamaica is the smallest nation to score in and win a FIFA World Cup game — two feats previously held by Northern Ireland since 1958 — when Robbie Earle scored the side’s only goal in a 3–1 defeat against Croatia and then beat Japan 2–1 at the 1998 World Cup, respectively.
Jamaica is also, along with the United States and Costa Rica, one of the rare teams from the Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) region to draw against Mexico in the Estadio Azteca in a World Cup qualifier match. The Jamaica National Football Team has won the Caribbean Cup six times (1991, 1998, 2005, 2008, 2010 & 2014).
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO in the FIFA World Cup – Round 1 (2006)
The fourth Caribbean football team to participate in the FIFA World Cup was the Trinidad & Tobago National Football Team, nicknamed the Soca Warriors, in 2006. During this tournament held in a united Germany, Trinidad & Tobago were grouped with England, Sweden, and Paraguay in Group B. They drew their first game 0–0 against Sweden despite going down to ten men early in the second half.
They then lost their remaining matches against England and Paraguay by a 2–0 margin. Based on this appearance, the team currently holds the record of being the smallest nation (both in size and population) to qualify for a FIFA World Cup. Outside of FIFA World Cup tournaments, the Trinidad & Tobago National Football Team has qualified for the CONCACAF Gold Cup on eight occasions, with their best performance in 2000 after reaching the semi-finals, finishing 3rd. The team has had even greater success in the Caribbean Cup, having won the sub-continental competition eight times (1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 & 2001) and runners-up on five occasions (1991, 1998, 2007, 2012 & 2014).
Future of Caribbean Football Teams at the FIFA World Cup
Sadly no Caribbean football team has gotten close to raising the World Cup trophy in celebration, but we can only hope and dream. Perhaps their chances would be improved if there was a Caribbean Professional Football League to further develop players in the region.
Since a proper football league in the Caribbean remains a work in progress, here is hoping this year’s FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar will inspire the senior national teams in the region. The next FIFA World Cup takes place during the summer of 2026 and will be hosted jointly by Canada, Mexico, and the United States across sixteen cities. Importantly, it will be the first FIFA World Cup to include forty-eight teams, expanded from thirty-two.
The expanded number of teams at the 23rd FIFA World Cup will increase the odds of a Caribbean football team, a member of the Caribbean Football Union, making the tournament, as there will be six or seven teams from The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Previously, it was just three CONCACAF teams that could qualify. So fingers crossed, we will see one or more of the Caribbean football teams in the mix.
Caribbean Football Teams that are members of the Caribbean Football Union, CONCACAF & FIFA
Most islands/countries within the Caribbean have a national football team organized by a football association. Most are members of the three main football associations in the region, which include the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), CONCACAF, and FIFA.
- The Caribbean Football Union (CFU) was established in January 1978 and represents 25 FIFA member nations in the Caribbean, as well as six territories that are not affiliated with FIFA.
- The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) was established in September 1961 and is one of FIFA’s six continental governing bodies for association football. Its 41 member associations represent countries and territories mainly in North America, including the Caribbean and Central America.
- Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in 1904 to oversee international competition among the national associations of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Membership has since expanded to include 211 national associations.
|Country||Football Association||Year Founded||CFU Status||CONCACAF Status||FIFA Status|
|Anguilla||Anguilla Football Association||1990||Member since 1996||Member since 1996||Member since 1996|
|Antigua & Barbuda||Antigua and Barbuda Football Association||1928||Member since 1978||Member since ???||Member since 1972|
|Aruba||Arubaanse Voetbal Bond||1932||Member since 1988||Member since 1986||Member since 1988|
|The Bahamas||Bahamas Football Association||1967||Member since 1978||Member since ???||Member since 1968|
|Barbados||Barbados Football Association||1910||Member since 1978||Member since 1967||Member since 1968|
|Belize||Football Federation of Belize||1980||Non-Member||Member since 1986||Member since 1986|
|Bermuda||Bermuda Football Association||1928||Member since 1978||Member since 1967||Member since 1962|
|Bonaire||Bonaire Football Federation||1960||Member since 2013||Member since 2014||Non-Member|
|The British Virgin Islands||British Virgin Islands Football Association||1974||Member since 1996||Member since ???||Member|
|Cayman Islands||Cayman Islands Football Association||1966||Member since 1992||Member since 1990||Member since 1992|
|Cuba||Asociación de Fútbol de Cuba||1924||Member since 1978||Member since 1961||Member since 1929|
|Curacao||Curaçao Football Federation||1921||Member since 1978||Member since 1961||Member since 1932|
|Dominica||Dominica Football Association||1970||Member since 1994||Member since 1994||Member since 1994|
|Dominican Republic||Dominican Football Federation||1953||Member since 1978||Member since 1964||Member since 1958|
|French Guiana||Ligue de Football de Guyanea||1962||Member since 1978||Member since 2013||Non-Member|
|Grenada||Grenada Football Association||1924||Member since 1978||Member since 1978||Member since 1978|
|Guadeloupe||Ligue Guadeloupéenne de Football||1958||Member since 1978||Member since 2013||Non-Member|
|Guyana||Guyana Football Federation||1902||Member since 1978||Member since ???||Member since 1970|
|Haiti||Haitian Football Federation||1904||Member since 1978||Member since 1961||Member since 1934|
|Jamaica||Jamaica Football Federation||1910||Member since 1978||Member since 1963||Member since 1962|
|Martinique||Ligue de football de la Martinique||1953||Member since 1978||Member since 2013||Non-Member|
|Montserrat||Montserrat Football Association||1994||Member since 1996||Member since 1996||Member since 1996|
|Puerto Rico||Puerto Rican Football Federation||1940||Member since 1978||Member since 1964||Member since 1960|
|Saba||Saba United Sports Federation||???||Non-Member||Non-Member||Non-Member|
|Saint Barthelemy||Comité Territorial de Football de Saint-Barthélemy||???||Non-Member||Non-Member||Non-Member|
|Saint Kitts & Nevis||Saint Kitts and Nevis Football Association||1932||Member since 1992||Member since 1992||Member since 1992|
|Saint Lucia||Saint Lucia Football Association||1979||Member since 1998||Member since 1986||Member since 1988|
|Saint Martin||Comité de Football des Îles du Nord||1999||Non-Member||Member since 2013||Non-Member|
|Saint Vincent & The Grenadines||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation||1979||Member since 1988||Member since 1986||Member since 1988|
|Sint Eustatius||Statia Football Association||???||Non-Member||Non-Member||Non-Member|
|Sint Maarten||Sint Maarten Soccer Association||1986||Member since ???||Member since 2013||Non-Member|
|Suriname||Surinaamse Voetbal Bond||1920||Member since 1978||Member since 1961||Member since 1929|
|Trinidad & Tobago||Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation||1908||Member since 1978||Member since 1964||Member since 1964|
|Turks & Caicos Islands||Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association||1996||Member since 1998||Member since 1996||Member since 1998|
|United States Virgin Islands||U.S. Virgin Islands Soccer Federation||1992||Member since 1998||Member since 1987||Member since 1998|
|Country||Football Association||Year Founded||CFU Status||CONCACAF Status||FIFA Status|
NOTE: The Jamaica Reggae Girlz will compete at the 9th FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand from July 20th to August 20th, 2023. Jamaica is the first women’s football team from the Caribbean to participate in this global tournament with 32 teams; it should be another source of inspiration for the men’s football teams in the region, gearing up for 2026! Finally, this post was originally published on May 22, 2018, and this was updated on November 11th, 2022.