Getty Images

Explaining CONCACAF’s new World Cup qualification format

2 Comments

So, CONCACAF have changed the way teams will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and in a word it is, complicated.

In short, this system will benefit the big boys.

Did this format really need changing?

The governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean released the new format on Wednesday and there was then plenty of confusion among fans across the region as to what all this means.

With the CONCACAF Nations League kicking off this fall, there are plenty of changes in the region and the main theme throughout all of these alterations is to give more meaningful international games and give extra incentives for smaller nations to not only qualify for big tournaments, but play qualifiers against some of the bigger nations.

Still, when it comes to the new World Cup qualification format, things get clouded a little.

This is where we come in. Here’s an explanation of the changes and what they actually mean.


  • Based on their FIFA rankings after the game window in June 2020, the top six teams in the CONCACAF region will compete in the final round of World Cup qualifying, the Hexagonal.
  • Hex matches will take place across September, October and November of 2020 and March and September of 2021.
  • The top three teams from the Hex standings will qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup.
  • In June 2020 the second part of qualifying will begin. CONCACAF teams ranked 7-35 according to their FIFA ranking will take part in a group stage and knockout round.
  • The 29 teams will be divided into five groups of four teams and three groups of three teams, with the games taking place in September, October and November of 2020.
  • The first-place teams in each of the eight groups will qualify for the knockout round.
  • Quarterfinals, semifinals and final matches of the knockout round will be played in home-and-away direct elimination format during March, June and September 2021.
  • Winner of the knockout phase will then play the fourth-place team from the Hex in a home-and-away playoff in October 2021.
  • The winner of the CONCACAF playoff will then play in FIFA’s Intercontinental playoff for a place in the World Cup.

Okay, so you’ve grabbed some aspirin after your lie down. Are you still with us?

This new format is great news for the USMNT, Mexico and Costa Rica. As for Honduras, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica, they know if they finish in fifth and sixth place in the Hex will not have to take part in a huge group stage and knockout round competition.

But the team who finish in fourth now know they aren’t heading straight for FIFA’s Intercontinental playoff for a place in the World Cup.

Adding an extra playoff round to determine who represents CONCACAF in the Intercontinental playoff seems a little bit much but it does give plenty of the smaller nations in the region hope that they can go on a fairytale run in the second part of qualifying, then beat the fourth-place team from the Hex, then an Intercontinental playoff to reach the 2022 World Cup.

Easy, right?

The upcoming Nations League games now have extra significance as wins for the likes of Canada and El Salvador will push them towards the Hex.

Judging on their displays at the Gold Cup this summer, Curacao and Haiti are also two teams who will certainly fancy their chances of making the most of this new long and winding route towards potential World Cup qualification.

This is complex, but overall it gives some chances to the smaller CONCACAF nations as well as keeping the status quo.

Filipe Luis signs for Flamengo after leaving Atletico

Getty Images
Leave a comment

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazilian veteran left-back Filipe Luis has signed for boyhood club Flamengo after leaving Atletico Madrid on a free transfer.

The Rio de Janeiro club and the player confirmed the move Tuesday on social media.

Flamengo said the 33-year-old Luis has signed a deal until 2021.

Luis has played in Europe for 14 years but left Atletico on Sunday after his contract expired.

The left-back was a starter for Brazil during its recent run to the Copa America title.

With Atletico, Luis won the Copa del Rey in 2013, the Spanish league in 2014, and the Europa League in 2012 and 2018. He also had a brief spell with Chelsea in between, winning the Premier League in 2015.

Flamengo is third in the Brazilian championship after 11 matches, five points behind leader and defending champion Palmeiras.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS expansion side Austin FC name Wolff as first-ever head coach

Austin FC/Twitter
1 Comment

Former USMNT forward  Josh Wolff has become the first-ever head coach of Austin FC, as the MLS expansion franchise crack on with their expected entry into North America’s top-flight in 2021.

Wolff, 42, was the assistant coach for D.C. United before moving to the Columbus Crew were he worked as Gregg Berhalter’s assistant for the past five years. Wolff was then hired as Berhalter’s assistant when he took charge of the USMNT.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Austin FC say that Wolff will start his new job after the international window in November as he will continue with his current job with U.S. Soccer until then.

“I know that Austin has a true love of soccer, and it is the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of the first ever major league team of any kind in the Capital of Texas,” Wolff said. “Our stated ambition is to establish ourselves quickly within MLS as a vibrant, attacking side and we want to reflect the diverse, competitive, and passionate makeup of our club’s home, both on and off the field.”

This move makes total sense as former Columbus Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, knows Wolff from their time together in Ohio. Precourt excercized his option to move his MLS franchise from Columbus to Austin which was confirmed in January 2019.

The Crew have since been kept in Columbus and Precourt is now the chairman and CEO of Two Oak Ventures, the entity which owns the rights to operate Austin FC and its stadium, while also holding the title of chairman and CEO of Austin FC. Austin FC’s new stadium at McKalla Place (the stadium and the complex around it looks pretty incredible) is privately funded and will hold 20,500 fans when it is completed.

Hiring a former MLS and USMNT star to lead the team makes a lot of sense and Wolff’s name has been mentioned plenty when MLS jobs have become available in recent years. He was on both the 2002 and 2006 USMNT World Cup squads and his experience across MLS and in Europe have given him a unique coaching style.

There is a lot of respect for Wolff among the American soccer community and his playing philosophy is very similar to Berhalter’s. Wolff becoming a head coach is good news for young domestic players.

Live, UCL: PSV v. Basel headlines second qualifying round

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds continue to roll on, and there are some mouthwatering clashes across Europe on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

That’s right, the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons pretty much rolled into one.

The pick of the second qualifying round first leg ties on Tuesday sees Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven host FC Basel in the Netherlands, with Mexican national team stars Hirving Lozano and Erick Guttierez hopeful of playing in the UCL group stage this season.

Welsh champions The New Saints host Danish champs FC Copenhagen, with TNS the heavy underdogs but their illustrious opponents will not relish their trip to Wales amid sweltering conditions in the UK.

Dinamo Zagreb will fancy their chances of advancing past Georgian minnows Saburtalo, while Olympiacos head to Czech giants Viktoria Plzen in another tasty encounter.

The third qualifying round sees the likes of Ajax, FC Porto and Dynamo Kiev enter the competition, so things will continue to get tougher for any minnows who sneak through this round.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, with the second legs played next week. Click on the link to follow all of the action live.

UCL second qualifying round, first leg – Tuesday, July 23

Plzen v. Olympiacos – 1 p.m. ET
Saburtalo v. Dinamo Zagreb – 1:30 p.m. ET
The New Saints v. Copenhagen – 2 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. FC Basel – 2 p.m. ET
FK Sutjeska v. APOEL Nicosia – 2:15 p.m. ET

Five Premier League teams listed among most valuable sports franchises

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The rich are getting richer. Literally.

Forbes has released its latest list of the top 50 most valuable sports teams on the planet, with eight soccer teams in the top 50 as 52 teams are worth at least $2 billion.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Five Premier League teams make it, with Manchester United in sixth with a value of $3.81 billion, Man City in 25th at $2.69 billion, Chelsea 32nd at $2.58 billion, Arsenal in 42nd at $2.27 billion and Liverpool in 45th at $2.18 billion.

Real Madrid and Barcelona lead the charge of most valuable soccer teams, sitting in third and fourth respectively with values of just over $4 billion, while Bayern Munich are in 17th with a valuation of $3.02 billion.

In previous years Man United topped Forbes’ list and they were the only team in the world to be worth over $2 billion back in 2012.

Real Madrid were the last soccer team atop Forbes’ list but the Dallas Cowboys have now been in top spot since 2016 with the NFL dominating this list.

26 of the top 50 most valuable teams are from the NFL, with eight soccer clubs, nine MLB franchises and seven NBA teams making up the rest.

Below is the list of the value of the top 10 sports franchises on the planet.


1. Dallas Cowboys – $5 billion
2. New York Yankees – $4.6 billion
3. Real Madrid – $4.2 billion
4. Barcelona – $4.02 billion
5. New York Knicks – $4 billion
6. Manchester United – $3.81 billion
7. New England Patriots – $3.8 billion
8. Los Angeles Lakers – $3.7 billion
9. Golden State Warriors – $3.5 billion
10=. New York Giants – $3.3 billion
10=. Los Angeles Dodgers – $3.3 billion