Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Sorting the CONCACAF nations on the road to Qatar 2022

Leave a comment

The United States men’s national team picked up a feel-good win over Mexico on Tuesday in Nashville, and there’s no reason to feel bad about enjoying the win.

Yet as general manager Earnie Stewart sorts through his options regarding the next full-time coach of the USMNT, where do the Yanks sit in the race to qualify for Qatar 2022?

[ MORE USMNT-MEXICO: 3 things | Player ratings ]

Yes, the World Cup is still going to Qatar. Yes, the games will be played in December in the middle of the night local time. Had to be said, again.

First and foremost, assuming the World Cup stays at 32 teams in the 3+1 CONCACAF qualifying format, who are the front-runners to make the Hex?

Let’s say the chalk plays out through qualifying and these 12 teams make the fourth round of qualifying. Since the Hex began for the 1998 cycle, the following nations have participated: USMNT (all), Mexico (all), Costa Rica (all), Honduras (4), Trinidad and Tobago (4), Panama (3), Jamaica (3), El Salvador (2), Guatemala (2006), Canada (1998).

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

We still don’t know which U-20 sides will qualify for next summer’s U-20 World Cup — qualifying is in November — but the U.S. won the CONCACAF U-20 title in 2017, with Mexico winning the previous three, and Costa Rica before that. Panama were runners-up in 2015, so it’s a pretty good predictor of the pipeline.

Here are the current Elo Ratings and FIFA world rankings for CONCACAF sides:

Mexico — Elo 20, FIFA 16
USMNT — Elo 26, FIFA 22
Costa Rica — Elo 43, FIFA 32
Honduras — Elo 58, FIFA 61
Panama — Elo 63, FIFA 69
Jamaica — Elo 67, FIFA 54
Canada — Elo 73, FIFA 79
Guatemala — Elo 80, FIFA 146
Haiti — Elo 84, FIFA 104
El Salvador — Elo 87, FIFA 72
Trinidad and Tobago — Elo 96, FIFA 91
Curacao — Elo 132, FIFA 81

For now, we will only rank the sides who have qualified to a prior Hex, though Haiti has a chance to impress us and join in the next power rankings some time in the future.

Long shots: El Salvador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica

Hex candidates: Panama, Canada, Honduras

Yes, Panama qualified for the World Cup, but it happened via a goal that never crossed the line and the poor performances of an American team that rarely showed up to work and a Honduran team which just couldn’t pull it together. Still, it’s best player at the World Cup were young: Ricardo Avila (21), Yoel Barcenas (24), and Jose Luis Rodriquez (20). Need to figure out life post-Felipe Baloy, Blas Perez, and (probably) Jaime Penedo.

Honduras is going to be in the discussion due to home field advantage alone. Even when Los Catrachos aren’t shining at San Pedro Sula, they are a handful. A bit longer in the tooth than you’d like for a tournament run, young forward Alberth Elis has to join Romell Quioto, Bryan Acosta, and Anthony Lozano in taking the next step.

The wild card here is Canada, which remains a green project and has new leadership in former WNT coach John Herdman. He will have a trio of teens at significant clubs when Alphonso Davies leaves Vancouver for Bayern Munich, joining Jonathan David at Gent and Liam Millar at Liverpool (Alessandro Busti is with Juventus B and Zahcary Brault-Guilard, Lyon). TFC’s Jonathan Osorio is in his prime, Cyle Larin isn’t there yet, and goalkeeper Milan Borjan starts on Red Star Belgrade.

Hex participants: Costa Rica, USMNT

Let’s start with the one of the bunch which played in the World Cup; Costa Rica is a difficult team to read. It will qualify for the Hex because it’s never failed to and it won’t be too old… yet. Of the 13 players to play more than 100 minutes for Los Ticos at the World Cup, only Joel Campbell and Francisco Calvo (both 26) were under the age of 28. All five players who manned all 270 minutes of the World Cup were 30 or older.

The reason the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for Russia was considered a disaster is that the Yanks should never, ever, ever miss a World Cup given their talent and resources. Even with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore getting on in years for their respective positions, the new manager could instantly trot out this lineup in CONCACAF and not worry about experience or age (at least not too much, and we’re not yet including Geoff Cameron):

Steffen

Yedlin — Miazga — Brooks — Lichaj

Adams — D. Williams — McKennie

Pulisic — Altidore — Wood

Subs: Guzan, Acosta, Weah, Green, Bradley, Ream, Sargent

The unquestioned No. 1: Mexico

Sure the U.S. was missing big names Pulisic, Brooks, Cameron, Bradley, and Altidore in the 1-0 win over Mexico, but El Tri was without a whole lot more. Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez, Carls Vela, Hirving Lozano, Chicharito (I’m just gonna stop now).

Mexico’s very best players are playing for some of the best clubs in the world, and Liga MX is still plenty ahead of MLS in depth and churning out youngsters.

Canada opens CONCACAF Nations League with 8-0 win

Twitter/@CanadaSoccerEN
Leave a comment

Canada opened its CONCACAF Nations League account on Sunday with an 8-0 victory against the U.S. Virgin Islands to begin the inaugural competition.

[ MORE: France tops Holland, Eriksen brace against Wales ]

Jonathan Osorio kicked off the scoring for the Canadians inside the opening 10 minutes, before Lucas Cavallini doubled the advantage just minutes after.

Cavallini later completed his brace, along with two-goal performances from Jonathan David and Besiktas striker Cyle Larin.

Cardiff City forward Junior Hoilett also got in on the scoring for the North American side, as they routed the island nation.

Canada will return to action in the tournament’s qualifying phase on October 16 when they host Dominica.

Report: La Liga regular season matches in U.S. not a done deal

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

That announcement from La Liga and Relevant Sports regarding league games coming to the United States?

Despite every reason to trust the league as a major authority on the matter, that’s a bit premature.

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre says that the Spanish players union has yet to agree to such a move, and that it’s unclear whether La Liga’s clubs are all on board.

In fact, there’s a laundry list of parties — including MLS commissioner Don Garber and the United States Soccer Federation — who could get in the way of it. From Yahoo:

And even if FIFA did greenlight the plan, others could still stop it. CONCACAF, which oversees the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean, has the jurisdiction to say no. CONCACAF has in the past balked at the idea of teams from the English Premier League and Mexico’s Liga MX playing meaningful games on U.S. soil. Both of those circuits have since essentially abandoned the idea. UEFA, Europe’s governing body, would also have to approve any deal that involved teams from Spain or any other European country.

Money sure talks, and certainly CONCACAF, MLS, and the USSF might be moved by it, but the more you read into it, the longer the odds.

Costa Rica says coach out after disappointing World Cup

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) The Costa Rica soccer federation says national team coach Oscar Ramirez is out after the team’s disappointing performance at the World Cup.

Federation president Rodolfo Villalobos said Wednesday that Ramirez’s contract has run out and won’t be renewed. Costa Rica compiled a record of 9 wins, 6 ties and 4 defeats in 16 qualifying and three World Cup matches under Ramirez.

Villalobos thanked the coach but said that “it is not convenient for him to remain.” He did not name a potential replacement, but said the federation is looking at a long list of candidates.

Costa Rica was the surprise of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, reaching the quarterfinals. But the team was knocked out in the group stage in Russia, losing to Brazil and Serbia and tying Switzerland.

CONCACAF boss targets 2026 World Cup for better results

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
2 Comments

MOSCOW (AP) The head of North American soccer says the region’s teams need until 2026 at a home World Cup to reach their full potential.

Mexico’s traditional round of 16 loss this week left the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football (CONCACAF) without the quarterfinals place it got four years ago from Costa Rica.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

“All in all, I think it’s par for the course,” CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said Tuesday of the region’s performance in Russia.

With just three teams at this World Cup compared to four in 2014, Costa Rica was last in a tough group and newcomer Panama lost all three games.

“I think you will see an improvement in four years,” Montagliani told The Associated Press in an interview, though suggesting “eight years is more realistic.”

Elected to lead CONCACAF in 2016, the Canadian official acknowledged the soccer body had too often let down its 35 FIFA member nations.

“Quite frankly, over the last 40 years CONCACAF as a confederation has not really done much to help the federations try to compete at a world level,” Montagliani said of an era tainted by corruption, and leaders indicted by the U.S. Justice Department.

Now moved from Manhattan to Miami, CONCACAF has reformed its business practices and revamped competitions for national and club teams.

A Nations League kicks off next year, designed to raise competitive standards by giving smaller national teams more fixtures and revenue in a two-year cycle.

Four places were added to the marquee Gold Cup, which the United States will host next year with 16 teams.

“Then we will see what we look like eight years from now when we host a World Cup in our backyard,” Montagliani said.

Though Mexico beat Germany 1-0 in a stunning group-stage opener in Moscow, CONCACAF had a bigger win in the Russian capital. Five days earlier, FIFA members picked the joint United States-Canada-Mexico bid over Morocco to host the 2026 tournament.

That 48-team edition will give CONCACAF six guaranteed places – likely with automatic entry for all three hosts – plus two more chances in an intercontinental playoff round in November 2025. Two of six teams will advance, with Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America all sending one entry.

In Russia, CONCACAF was understrength after Honduras lost its intercontinental playoff last November, going down 3-1 in Australia after drawing 0-0 in the home leg.

“It’s really important we get a fourth team (in 2022),” Montagliani said. “I think this year it was disappointing Honduras didn’t take advantage of their home field advantage.”

Four years ago, Mexico grabbed a fourth place for the region when it surprisingly fell into the playoffs as Honduras advanced directly with the U.S. and Costa Rica.

This time, the U.S. slumped in the final qualifying group, letting in Panama which was overmatched in Russia.

“Like most debutants they saw how tough it is at this level,” Montagliani said. “The team that probably should have qualified four years ago was here this year and a little bit old in the tooth. You’re going to see a different Panama now in the next four years.”

So too will CONCACAF on and off the field, the FIFA vice president insisted.

“Our confederation will look differently by the time we get to ’22 and definitely look different by the time we host in ’26.”

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup