Early days yet, but CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani believes that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the adverse effects it has had on football could bring an end to the region’s six-team World Cup qualifying format.
In an interview with OneSoccer, Montagliani argued that while world-governing body FIFA has yet to officially announce an updated calendar for qualifying to the Qatar 2022 World Cup, the current set-up will have to be amended.
“On the balance of probabilities, in terms of what has happened so far and what will likely continue to happen, the current World Cup format will have to be changed,” Montagliani told OneSoccer.
“Which means, ultimately, that the Hex will have to be changed into some other form. Obviously it will be bigger, but what that number is, I don’t know until we have a calendar,” he added.
Before the coronavirus upheaval, the top six countries in the global FIFA rankings qualify for a spot in CONCACAF’s hex.
Once there, all teams vie for the top three spots to automatically earn their World Cup places with the fourth-placed team advancing to a playoff.
In the current format, the hex would only accommodate Mexico, the US, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador, however, with less time, more nations could vie for more places.
CONCACAF governs 35 countries in North and Central America as well as the Caribbean.
Canada, being seventh regionally in the FIFA rankings, would be the first to benefit from an expanded qualifying process – the question remains, whatever might that be?
“You’re going to have 35 countries and until we know from FIFA how many windows we have it is going to be very hard for me to say it is this,” Montagliani explained.
“Yes, you are going to have to use FIFA rankings to start somewhere because that’s the reality of our confederation and in terms of having 35 (teams) you are going to have to do some sort of elimination process and then eventually get into some group stage process. But I don’t know that yet until we know what the FIFA calendar is going to look like,” he added.