Association football in Trinidad and Tobago
Association football in Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most popular sports on the twin-island Republic and is governed by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association. The organisation governs all levels of football in the country, including the men's and women's national teams, TT Pro League, National Super League, and amateur leagues.
Men's football leagues
The professional first-division league in Trinidad and Tobago is the TT Pro League, which consists of nine teams located on the island of Trinidad. The Pro League was formed in 1999 as part of a need for a professional league to strengthen the country's national team and improve the development of domestic players. The most successful club in the league has been Defence Force, who has won the league championship 22 times. The National Super League is the semi-professional second-division league in Trinidad and Tobago and contains 12 teams. The Super League was founded in 2003 to allow the best teams from association football to play in a semi-professional environment, as they prepare for life in the professional game. The amateur third and fourth divisions of six regional football associations which govern their own first and second divisions.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association sanctions regional tournaments that allow entry into the FA Trophy, which is the premier knockout tournament for teams in Trinidad and Tobago. The competition is open to all those affiliated with the FA. The FA Trophy is the oldest football competition in Trinidad and Tobago, dating back to 1927 and pits teams from the top three levels of the football pyramid against each other each year, similar to England's FA Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago are members of CONCACAF, which governs association football in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago are also members of the Caribbean Football Union and compete in regional competitions staged by the governing body. At the club level, CFU organises an annual competition, called the CFU Club Championship, open to the champions of each Caribbean's football association first-division. Presently, the TT Pro League has two automatic qualification places given to the top 2 teams in the league standings following each season. The league champion is automatically seeded and enter the competition in the Second Round, whereas the league runner-up enter in the First Round.
As of the 2012–13 CONCACAF Champions League, Caribbean qualifying teams include the top three clubs from the 2012 CFU Club Championship. In the case any Caribbean club is precluded, it is supplanted by the fourth-place finisher from the CFU Club Championship. Between 2008–09 and 2011–12, the Champions League was played as a twenty-four team tournament with a preliminary round, followed by a sixteen-team group stage (four groups of four), followed by an eight-team home-and-away single-elimination tournament. In early 2012, CONCACAF announced a new format for the 2012–13 edition of its Champions League. Under the new format, the preliminary round would be eliminated, and group play would consist of eight groups of three teams each, with each group winner advancing to the quarterfinals.
Trinidadians playing in foreign leagues
Since the early 1990s, many Trinidad and Tobago men have found opportunities playing football at the highest levels of foreign leagues. Among the first players from Trinidad and Tobago to become regulars in foreign leagues were Dwight Yorke at Aston Villa and later Manchester United in England, Leonson Lewis at Académica de Coimbra in Portugal, and Brian Haynes at FC Dallas in the United States. The following is a list of Trinidadians playing in foreign leagues:
The Trinidad and Tobago men's and women's national soccer teams represent Trinidad and Tobago in international competition. The men's national team competes in the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Confederations Cup, in addition to the CFU Caribbean Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup and other competitions by invitation. The women's national team competes in the FIFA Women's World Cup, and the Summer Olympics, in addition to the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup and other competitions by invitation.
In recent years, the men's national team have been the most successful in the Caribbean and have won the CFU's Caribbean Cup 8 times since it was founded in 1990. By claiming the Caribbean Cup in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2001, Trinidad and Tobago have qualified for the CONCACAF Gold Cup more than any other Caribbean nation. Though the national team have never claimed the Gold Cup title, their best finish came in the 1973 CONCACAF Championship when they finished runners-up to Haiti. The Trinidad and Tobago women's national team competed in their first international match in 1991 with a 3-1 victory over Mexico. The women's team have yet to qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup with their best performance in the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup coming in the 1991 when they finished in third place.
In addition to the Trinidad and Tobago national team, the island of Tobago also has an official football team that represents the island. The team is not affiliated with FIFA, CONCACAF, nor the CFU and as a result may not enter any of the organisation's football competitions.