So far, 2017 has been a year of bad ideas in the world of soccer. I’ve stated my arguments against a 48-team world cup enough though. Now, the Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean Association of Football (CONCACAF) is looking into the possibility of organizing a tournament which mirrors UEFA’s proposal to create a Nations League competition.
UEFA’s proposal although it may have a few wrinkles to iron out, it’s a brilliant idea and I can’t wait for it to start 17 months from now, however, Concacaf is a much different region where most of its members have a pretty bad competitive level.
Although the new competition can provide a big benefit to some of the region’s national teams who play only a few competitive matches in a four-year cycle, this would be at the expense of the bigger soccer nations in the region such as Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States.
I understand the reasoning behind the move, CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani has said that due to the creation of the UEFA Nations League which would replace most friendly matches, the ability to schedule matches against European competition will be very difficult, however, by creating this competition you also eliminate the ability of the region’s top teams to schedule games with better competition outside of Concacaf. The European teams would no longer be available, but that shouldn’t be the argument since very few teams outside of Mexico and the U.S. schedule games against European competition anyway.
But instead of just ranting about it let’s take a closer look at how this proposal could potentially look like before I continue to make fun of it. Concacaf has 35 FIFA recognized members, but the total number of members is 41, so that is the number I’ll use.
I created two different formats to get a better sense of the type of competition each team may be stuck with as part of the proposal. To properly do this I used the most recent FIFA Rankings to rank the teams. Since Concacaf has six non-FIFA members I will do my best to place those teams where appropriate.
The first format I’ll present to you would be made of five tiers of 8 or 9 teams each. This is how that could look:
|MEXICO (1)||COSTA RICA (2)|
|PANAMA (4)||UNITED STATES (3)|
|HAITI (5)||HONDURAS (6)|
|JAMAICA (8)||CURACAO (7)|
|TRINIDAD & TOBAGO (9)||MARTINIQUE* (10)|
|ANTIGUA & BARBUDA (12)||GUATEMALA (11)|
|SAINT KITTS & NEVIS (13)||NICARAGUA (14)|
|CANADA (16)||EL SALVADOR (15)|
|FRENCH GUIANA* (17)||GUADELOUPE* (18)|
|PUERTO RICO (20)||SURINAME (19)|
|GUYANA (21)||BELIZE (22)|
|ARUBA (24)||DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (23)|
|CUBA (25)||SAINT LUCIA (26)|
|GRENADA (28)||BARBADOS (27)|
|SAINT VINCENT & THE GRENADINES (29)||BERMUDA (30)|
|U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (32)||DOMINICA (31)|
|MONTSERRAT (33)||TURKS & CAICOS (34)||CAYMAN ISLANDS (35)|
|BAHAMAS (38)||ANGUILLA (37)||BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS (36)|
|SAINT MARTIN* (39)||SINT-MARTEEN* (40)||BONAIRE* (41)|
The goal of this format would be to ensure the top teams in the region aren’t forced to play against teams that are ranked far below them, by only having a total of eight teams in the top tier, you can minimize the gap between the teams in the highest level of the competition. Also, in this format, you can have a championship game to be played between the winners of each group or a Final Four competition with the top two of each group.
The second proposal is a three tier system with four groups in each division which will make it similar to the UEFA concept.
|MEXICO (1)||COSTA RICA (2)||UNITED STATES (3)||PANAMA (4)|
|JAMAICA (8)||CURACAO (7)||HONDURAS (6)||HAITI (5)|
|TRINIDAD (9)||MARTINIQUE* (10)||GUATEMALA (11)||ANTIGUA & BAR. (12)|
|ST. KITTS & NEVIS (13)||NICARAGUA (14)||EL SALVADOR (15)||CANADA (16)|
|PUERTO RICO (20)||SURINAME (19)||GUADELOUPE* (18)||FRENCH GUIANA* (17)|
|GUYANA (21)||BELIZE (22)||DOMINICAN REP. (23)||ARUBA (24)|
|ST. LUCIA (26)||BARBADOS (27)||GRENADA (28)||ST. VINCENT (29)|
|MONTSERRAT (33)||US VIRGIN IS. (32)||DOMINICA (31)||BERMUDA (30)|
|TURKS & CAICOS (34)||CAYMAN IS. (35)||BRITISH VIRGIN IS. (36)||ANGUILLA (37)|
|BONAIRE* (41)||SINT MARTEEN* (40)||ST. MARTIN* (39)||BAHAMAS (38)|
The benefit of this proposal is the fact that you only force the top teams in the region to only play four games although the groups may be slightly less competitive.
As you can see from the possibilities shown above, the number of games that a true soccer fan would watch is minimal. The true value of such competition would be to the vast majority of the region except for the top teams.
In my humble opinion, the best way to move forward would be to not have a League A to give those teams the freedom to continue to schedule better competition while providing a mechanism for the remainder of nations to get the constant competition to allow them to have consistent growth.
The problem, however, is that by doing that all the necessary revenue needed to invest on the Nations League wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have Mexico or the United States. So at the end of the day if Concacaf moves forward with the Nations League it will have to include all of its 41 member associations.
There is, however, one complex issue that Concacaf needs to resolve to spark interest in this tournament is to set it up in a way to make the U.S. and Mexico play each other, whether is a single group, or to have a playoff competition which opens the possibility to both teams have a chance to play each other with a title on the line can be the boost that enables this concept to work.
The same challenge will emerge in future World Cup qualifying where the Hexagonal will inevitably come to an end which may mean the two most important team in the region may not encounter each other in every qualification cycle as they currently do. In that case, this proposed competition may be the answer to allow the top four or six teams to be able to continue to play against each other.