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World Cup qualifying
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Hex no more: CONCACAF chief expects changes to World Cup qualifying

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CONCACAF’s new World Cup qualifying method was incredibly unpopular with most of the confederation, and now it’s going to have to alter it.

The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the international calendar in a big way, and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani says the confederation will have to look beyond the celebrated six-team qualifying format popularly called “The Hex.”

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“I think on the balance of probabilities … the current World Cup format will have to be changed, which means, ultimately, that the Hex will have to be changed into some other form,” said Montagliani, the former Canada Soccer boss (video below). “Obviously it will be bigger, but what that number is, I don’t know until we have a calendar.”

As it stands, the huge beneficiary of an expanded field is Canada (and every team underneath it). They were seventh in the FIFA rankings and would only have hope of qualifying for the World Cup if they won the tournament pitting teams No. 7 and under, then beat the fourth-place team from the Hex, and then won an interconfederational playoff.

The top six teams are Mexico, the USMNT, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras, and El Salvador. An expanded field could not include all 40-plus members, but here are the next 10 sides (if it goes to four groups of four):

Canada
Curacao
Panama
Haiti
Trinidad and Tobago
Antigua and Barbuda
Guatemala
St. Kitts and Nevis
Suriname
Nicaragua

The U.S. should still qualify given its status in the region, but we saw how that went in 2018. Here’s looking forward to the new format.

CONCACAF postpones Nations League finals, Gold Cup qualification

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CONCACAF announced on Friday that the 2019-20 Nations League finals and the opening rounds of 2021 Gold Cup qualification have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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The Nations League finals — featuring the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras — were previously scheduled to take place in Houston and Dallas in early June. CONCACAF says the semifinals and final will be rescheduled for a later date.

The seconds round of Gold Cup qualifying was previously scheduled to be made up in June — following their postponement in March, with four two-leg ties featuring largely Caribbean and Central American nations. Those, too, will be rescheduled for a later date.

Given the ongoing public health situation, and following consultation with FIFA regarding the international football calendar, we have made the decision to suspend the CONCACAF Nations League finals, which was scheduled for June 4-7, 2020 in the Houston and Dallas areas.

The event, which includes the Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA men’s national teams, will be rescheduled to take place at a later date in venues to be determined. This will be confirmed following further discussions with FIFA regarding the remaining international windows in the football calendar, and will obviously be subject to public health authorities deeming it safe for professional sports events to resume.

FOLLOW, LIVE – USMNT wraps up camp with Costa Rica friendly

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The U.S. men’s national team is set to kick off its 2020 slate of fixtures with a friendly against Costa Rica to wrap up the program’s annual January training camp at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., on Saturday (3:55 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW: USMNT on Twitter for live updates and highlights ]

With an eye toward the semifinals of the CONCACAF Nations League in June, Gregg Berhalter’s side is about to embark upon a very important period with 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign set to begin in August.

Berhalter has opted for a mix of youth and experience with Saturday’s starting lineup, recalling established members like Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman at center back along with Paul Arriola and Sebastian Lletget in midfield, and supplementing them with the likes of Reggie Cannon, Ulysses Llanez, Brenden Aaronson, Jesus Ferreira and Sam Vines.

Hit the link above to follow along with the action this afternoon, and check back on PST for a full recap and analysis after the game.

USMNT to hold camp in Qatar ahead of first 2020 match

USMNT holding camp in Qatar
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The United States men’s national team has announced its opponent for its annual January camp friendly.

Gregg Berhalter’s men will kick off 2020 much like they did 2019, tangling with a CONCACAF B-side team. This time it’s Costa Rica on Feb. 1 in Carson, Calif., a year after Berhalter debuted his team with a 3-0 win over Panama.

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The Yanks, of course, will also have a largely second team side for all of January camp, with European clubs in action and no formal international window.

U.S. Soccer also confirmed that the side will hold camp in Qatar, still somehow home of the 2022 World Cup. The Yanks will be there from Jan. 5-25 to get a first taste of where they hope to be a part of their first World Cup in eight years.

“Utilizing similar opportunities prior to the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil proved extremely beneficial in the team’s planning and preparations,” the team said in a release.

It will be interesting to see how experimental Berhalter’s roster is in January. While most years would see the camp as reason for a heavily inexperienced squad, Berhalter has to prepare his side for the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals and World Cup qualifying. There’s also an Olympics in there, though Berhalter has allowed Jason Kreis plenty of exclusivity with the U-23s.

It’s also worth noting that lot of things associated with the 2022 World Cup are going to feel unsavory for many national teams. Plugging loads of U.S. Soccer resources into Qatar in prep is just the tip of the iceberg. It will get the Yanks better prepped for the tournament.

State of play in CONCACAF Nations League

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Well, well, well…

Canada’s controlling 2-0 defeat of the USMNT on Tuesday adding some intrigue to the final two match days of the CONCACAF Nations League next month

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Mexico nearly provided another shock at Azteca thanks to a relative inability to break down Panama, but young stunner Jose Juan Macias scored for the fourth time in three caps to lead El Tri to a 3-1 win on the night.

Roberto Alvarado saw his 28th minute goal canceled out by pre-halftime own goal, and Mexico had better than 75 percent possession when Macias bagged his winner. Rodolfo Pizarro rounded out the scoring in stoppage time.

Here’s where we sit in the battle for four semifinal spots. The semifinals and finals will be staged in June.

Group A

Canada’s defeat of the USMNT means the Yanks need to make the most of the Canucks visit to the Orlando next month and smash Cuba in the Cayman Islands. Overall goal difference is the second tie breaker, and the Yanks are four behind Canada. A two-goal win in Florida would mean the Yanks would simply need a victory over Cuba to advance to the semifinals. Canada advances with a draw against the U.S., while Cuba has already be relegated to League B.

Group B

Mexico now has six points to Panama’s three and Bermuda’s three. El Tri will visit Panama next and can clinch a spot in the semifinals with a draw or better. Even if Panama beats Mexico, Tata Martino’s men would need to get nothing from Bermuda at Azteca to fail to make the semifinals. Bermuda needs Panama to beat Mexico before getting a blowout win at Azteca. Not looking good.

Group C

Honduras is onto the semifinals. Whether Martinique or Trinidad and Tobago, both on two points, can avoid relegation by getting a superior result against Honduras in November. Honduras heads to Martinique before hosting T&T.

Group D

Curacao had five points compared to its rivals two each and can advance to the semifinals with a home defeat of Costa Rica. If Los Ticos claims the three points, then it will have at least a two-goal advantage on Haiti heading into a home finale.