CONCACAF president will prioritize overhaul to World Cup qualifying format

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CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani has only been on the job five months, but he has a clear top priority for changes to the confederation.

Montagliani, speaking to Associated Press reporter Rob Harris, dubbed the current format as “archaic” and wishes to change things around to be more inclusive of smaller nations, giving them the chance to stay in qualification longer with the idea of promoting growth within all member countries.

“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 said from London. “It doesn’t make sense.”

With the Hexagonal round set to begin in November, only six teams – USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad & Tobago – remain in contention for the 3.5 CONCACAF spots up for grabs in the 2018 World Cup.

“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.”

Some CONCACAF teams such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Bermuda, and Suriname were eliminated from 2018 World Cup qualification after just a single two-leg matchup way back in June of 2015.

In comparison, UEFA’s current World Cup qualifying system includes all 55 member countries in group stage play that will continue through October of 2017 when nine teams will automatically qualify and another eight will play a knockout stage for the final four places.

“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 told the AP. “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.”

Montagliani said he will look at potentially combining the UEFA and CONMEBOL styles of qualification. The confederation will likely want to break smaller countries up into groups like the UEFA style, however it would benefit all parties to have the biggest teams, such as the United States and Mexico, able to play each other at some point, so tweaks would need to be made in that sense.