CONCACAF qualifying for men’s World Cup bound for change due to pandemic

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani says the global pandemic will result in a change in World Cup qualifying for the region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Montagliani, a native of East Vancouver who doubles as FIFA vice-president, told onesoccer.ca that the region faces a qualifying scheduling issue due to the COVID-19 shutdown. The June international window has already been postponed and Montagliani said he was not optimistic that the September window would go ahead.

“On the balance of probabilities, we’re going to have to change our World Cup qualifying formula,” he said.

The original CONCACAF plan was to have the top six teams in the region advance to the so-called Hex round of qualifying, with the three top teams after group play booking their tickets to the 2022 World Cup.

Teams ranked seventh through No. 35 would compete in their own qualifying round with the last team standing facing the fourth-placed Hex team to see who advances to an intercontinental playoff, with the winner advancing to the World Cup.

Canada currently ranks 73rd in the world and seventh in CONCACAF.

Using FIFA rankings to slot teams in the existing format of Hex or no-Hex, given the lengthy period of inactivity for all teams, is “an integrity issue,” said Montagliani.

Deciding a new qualifying formula for the 35 countries is going to be difficult until FIFA announces how many international windows there will be, he added.

He said FIFA rankings will be used as a starting point for the new format. But the Hex will have to change to some other form — likely a bigger competition.

Montagliani said officials knew the original qualifying plan was going to be a one-off given the U.S., Canada and Mexico are co-hosting the 2026 World Cup.

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