Friday, October 01, 2010

CONCACAF takes a step back

A great article from SI about the proposed new World Cup qualification process from CONCACAF. The main take away - with this new system it will be very unlikely to see Mexico v USA matches played during qualifying. Both nations are head and shoulders ahead of all the other CONCACAF nations and will never be paired in the same group. The argument for this format is to give a number of the smaller nations more matches to play and develop their talent pool, a worthy goal but one that seems to be skewed. You want these smaller nations to get more World Cup qualifying games? Then create a pre-qualifier tournament for these nations, for example:

  • Take the top 5 CONCACAF nations and they are in the final group.
  • The remaining nations are broken into groups - 5 groups of  6 nations. The winners of each group move on.
  • The 10 nation group then plays home and away to determine the ranking.
  • Top 3 go to World Cup, 4th team goes to playoff.
I realize this might not work from a time perspective but there should be a way to make this work. This would give smaller nations more games that count, while preserving the competitive aspect of CONCACAF qualifiers - aka Mexico v USA.

The real issue for me is that CONCACAF does not need to give the minnows more games but needs to get their big 2 more serious matches. I have always thought CONCACAF should work with South America to merge their qualifiers. I realize this is a pipe dream, but for nations like Mexico and the US, being forced to play regular qualifiers against the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and the rest of the South American nations would help their teams develop. As Wahl points out in the article, CONCACAF does not have the equivalent of the European Cup of Nations to bridge World Cups. While I am not convinced the US and Mexico will ever move to the level of Germany, Italy, Brazil and the rest who are legitimate World Cup contenders on a regular basis, the ability to play more serious, more competitive matches on a regular basis are the only ways they will move the needle when it comes to competing on the world stage.

I realize that Gulati will never want to jeopardize the US' ability to qualify every 4 years to the World Cup. As it is currently constructed the US and Mexico are both almost 100% guaranteed to qualify, under the new format they will be 101% guaranteed. Merging with South America will drastically drop that percentage, but it would give those squads more serious international matches and potentially make the US and Mexico legitimate contenders for international silverware. Alas, I am sure that the revenue from attending the globe's biggest sporting event every 4 years is too important to sacrifice for an opportunity to truly develop your program.

No comments:

There was an error in this gadget