Plenty of members of CONCACAF couldn't qualify for the 2021 Gold Cup, as the tournament only features 15 teams. So, with that being said, why are Qatar playing in a competition that features just teams from North, Central America, and the Caribbean?
Well, for the first time in their history, Qatar joined the competition as a 'Guest Team'. That initiative came to strengthen the bond between CONCACAF and the AFC and it's not the first time something like this happens.
As a matter of fact, Qatar was also a guest team in the 2019 Copa America and they were invited to participate in the 2023 Gold Cup as well. Also, South Korea had taken part in the tournament in 2000 and 2002.
Why Are Qatar Playing In The Gold Cup?
(Transcript via CONCACAF)
"Concacaf and AFC have a longstanding relationship that has resulted in various joint initiatives which have served to greatly develop football in both regions, including a referee exchange in which referees from the AFC officiated matches in the 2019 Gold Cup and 2018 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, while Concacaf referees oversaw matches in both the 2018 AFC Champions League and 2019 Asian Cup. "Another facet of the relationship between Concacaf and the Qatari Football Association (QFA), along with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), is an initiative to grow the game at a grassroots level in North America, Central America and the Caribbean."
While this isn't that usual in the Gold Cup, the Copa America has a long history of inviting foreign teams to their tournament. That's because South America only has 10 countries, so they usually have a couple of guests.
Mexico and Japan have been the most usual guests at that tournament, but given Qatar's sudden growth and rise in the soccer community, they've become a more familiar face in these kinds of competitions nowadays.