Wed, Sep

CONCACAF boss: New W/Cup format was best.

CON­CA­CAF pres­i­dent Vic­tor Mon­tagliani is stand­ing by the change in the CON­CA­CAF World Cup qual­i­fy­ing for­mat im­ple­ment­ed ear­li­er this year, say­ing it was forced up­on them be­cause of a me­dia rights is­sue and the new Na­tions League. How­ev­er, he says the for­mat will again change for the 2026 World Cup in the Unit­ed States.

The first phase of the new qual­i­fy­ing for­mat will fea­ture on­ly the top six ranked CON­CA­CAF teams based on the FI­FA rank­in­gs af­ter the June 2020 win­dow. These coun­tries will play a Hexag­o­nal home-and-away round-robin se­ries for three au­to­mat­ic CON­CA­CAF berths in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The sec­ond phase of the qual­i­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion will in­volve the CON­CA­CAF coun­tries ranked 7-35. These 29 coun­tries will en­gage in a group stage and knock­out phase com­pe­ti­tion. For the group stage, the coun­tries will be di­vid­ed in­to eight groups (five groups of four and three groups of three) and the first-place team in each of the eight groups will qual­i­fy for the knock­out stage. The win­ner of this knock­out phase se­ries will then play the fourth-placed team from the Hex. The win­ner of that se­ries will then ad­vance to a play­off se­ries with the Asian con­fed­er­a­tion qual­i­fi­er for a fi­nal spot in Qatar.

But many of the Caribbean Foot­ball Union min­nows had ar­gued when it was an­nounced ear­li­er this year that this was un­fair, since many coun­tries would not get a chance to par­tic­i­pate in ei­ther phase of the com­pe­ti­tion, much less get a tra­di­tion­al chance at cre­at­ing some of the up­sets of past World Cup tour­na­ments.

On Mon­day, how­ev­er, Mon­tagliani, who was in Trinidad for the launch of the TTFA's Home of Foot­ball in Cou­va, said the de­ci­sion was reached af­ter a process of vot­ing and that the ma­jor­i­ty of CON­CA­CAF mem­bers even­tu­al­ly un­der­stood the process and rea­son­ing be­hind it.

“Once it was ex­plained why it was done, then every­one un­der­stood. I would have liked to have a dif­fer­ent for­mat my­self, in that I would have liked to use the Na­tions League as a for­mat. The re­al­i­ty is that be­cause of me­dia rights and the Na­tions League is owned by ob­vi­ous­ly us, the cal­en­dar is an­oth­er is­sue, the re­al­i­ty is that the Na­tions League has tak­en up a lot of the cal­en­dar, which means that you on­ly have a few days to play.”

He added, “We can­not play like we did be­fore, rounds one, two, three and four. We had to keep the Hex be­cause of con­trac­tu­al oblig­a­tions from a me­dia stand­point, or a lot of our mem­bers would have lost a ton of mon­ey from a me­dia rights per­spec­tive. So we had to fit a square peg in a round hole.”

Some CON­CA­CAF mem­ber coun­tries claimed to have been un­aware of the de­ci­sion be­fore it was an­nounced. But Mon­tagliani dis­missed this, say­ing that those coun­tries who were against it were in the mi­nor­i­ty. He said they even­tu­al­ly en­sured that all coun­tries would still get a chance at qual­i­fy­ing de­spite the new for­mat.

“This was the best for­mat, so I gave every­one a chance. Now we have over 500 games in a four-year pe­ri­od. Be­fore it was just 100, so if you look at the to­tal­i­ty of it, it is why peo­ple are on board with it,” Mon­tagliani said.

“It’s not per­fect but it’s go­ing to evolve be­cause the for­mat will change again for 2026.”

Mon­tagliani mean­while de­scribed the new Home of Foot­ball as a fan­tas­tic one, say­ing it is now the jew­el of the Caribbean and the CON­CA­CAF in some ways. He said with the new fa­cil­i­ty, it is time for T&T foot­ball to build some of the blocks by start­ing with the play­ers on the T&T un­der-15 team with the 2026 World Cup as the fo­cus.