Former national captain Angus Eve is in favour of a revamp in the CONCACAF structure of qualifying for the World Cup currently being proposed by CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani. The CONCACAF boss believes the current system is “archaic” with close to 20 months still to go for the start of the 2018 showpiece in Russia but with only six teams competing and 85 percent of members already eliminated.
“Something needs to change because you can’t have 85 percent of your members who are on the outside looking in two years before the World Cup,” Montagliani told The Associated Press. “It doesn’t make sense.” Since qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, CONCACAF has used a system where teams play home and away in early rounds. Once 12 nations are remaining there are three groups of four, which produces six teams for a final round.
The United States, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago are the last teams standing, chasing three of CONCACAF’s automatic qualification places. Starting next month, they play each other twice in a league.
“It’s great for those six teams over the next year and a bit but how about the other ones?” Montagliani said. “It’s hard.” Hard for players to raise their standard and hard for teams to generate revenue to fund development.
Eve, speaking to Newsday yesterday, agreed but cautioned whether other teams may be ready to compete at that elite level.
“It’s two ways you can look at it - one is the development for the lesser teams only having to play one (home and away) game, there isn’t much development there. Then (if you win) you probably go into a group with just three teams and play two matches and only the first place team goes through and then everyone else is basically done till the next Caribbean Cup. I do think there is room for improvement on the format so the earlier stages could go on probably a little longer to give the teams a bit more match experience and stuff like that because there are some countries who only play in that first round and never have a chance to move on and play more matches to develop their programme.
“You have to look at these socalled weaker teams because even if they’re coming into the later stages, using St Vincent as an example, getting four and five and seven (goals conceded) so there’s a balancing act that has to be done.
I do understand where he’s coming from that with two years going there’s only six teams to look at but then we still have to look at the quality of the other teams that is coming through and whether it will be farce just to say we have more teams coming through.” TTFA president David John-Williams, although not hearing the CONCACAF’s president remarks for himself, acknowledged though that the current system “needs to improve.” Expounding on the disadvantages of the current structure, Montagliani, who replaced the disgraced Jeffrey Webb as head of CONCACAF, noted that territorial bodies will benefit in the long run if something different is implemented.
“Can you imagine you are a country trying to find a sponsor and they say, ‘I’m all for it, when’s your next big game?’ And it’s three years from now,” Montagliani said during an interview in London.
“So we seriously need to look at our World Cup qualifying system that is a bit archaic. We need to be a bit more all-encompassing. We’re looking at how we balance competitions with our commercial (priorities) without putting too much stress on already too busy calendars as well.” But Montagliani is certain qualifying must change, although there could be a proliferation of games that draw smaller crowds and little broadcast revenue.
Discussing a new configuration, Montagliani said: “Maybe it’s like the Europeans or maybe it’s like the South Americans with a league — or it’s a hybrid of the two.”