Commentary

Concacaf might want to consider a double Hexagonal

New Concacaf president Victor Montagliani has signaled the regional organization is considering a rebranding in the wake of scandals that has rocked his organization. But the Canadian is an agent of change, also suggesting the confederation needs to consider a new format for World Cup qualifying that currently ends with the Hexagonal.

It would seem to make little sense to drop the Hexagonal, one of the best things about Concacaf. Introduced for 1998 World Cup qualifying, the Hexagonal is a double round-robin tournament involving the top six teams in Concacaf.

It has helped create some great rivalries -- all American soccer fans know about USA-Mexico thanks to Dos à Cero and earned new respect for Costa Rica thanks to the Hexagonal -- and served as a strong competitive environment for the World Cup finals. In 2014, the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica all reached the round of 16.

Why change a good thing? Politics. Montagliani was elected as the first Concacaf president from outside the Caribbean in more than a quarter century. The two most recently elected presidents were Jack Warner from Trinidad & Tobago and Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands. Warner is fighting extradition and Webb pleaded guilty in connection with the Federal indictments related to corruption in Concacaf and Conmebol, the South American confederation.

The Caribbean dominates Concacaf politics because it is the home to 31 of its 41 member associations (30 if you don't count Bermuda). Montagliani beat Larry Mussenden, the Bermuda Football Association president, 25-16, in the election held in May to fill the vacancy left by the ouster of interim president Honduran Alfredo Hawit after his indictment last December.

The likely successor would have been Gordon Derrick of Antigua and Barbuda, but the Caribbean Football Union president was banned by FIFA from running after failing an integrity test.

Montagliani says the problem with the Concacaf World Cup qualifying tournament is that too many Concacaf members are eliminated too early.

"Something needs to change because you can't have 85 percent of your members who are on the outside looking in two years before the World Cup," Montagliani told The Associated Press. "It doesn't make sense."

Just as Europe began qualifying in September, Concacaf was finishing up its semifinal round, getting down to six teams: the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. That semifinal round followed three rounds that began with a first round involving 14 teams, 12 of them from the Caribbean, teams like Turks & Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Bahamas, all ranked 200 or below in the FIFA rankings.

The question is, how to change the qualifying system to make it more inclusive? The idea of splitting the Concacaf groups like in Europe and give all teams an equal chance makes no sense.

What would give Caribbean teams more chances is to expand the final round to 12 teams and divide them into two groups of six -- a double Hexagonal, if you will.

As it is, Concacaf is awarded 3.5 berths in the World Cup finals. After the 10 games, the two winners of the two groups could qualify automatically while the two runners-up could play off. The Concacaf playoff winner would qualify while the loser would head to the intercontinental playoff like the fourth-place team in the Hexagonal does now.

If this format was used in this cycle, four Caribbean teams -- Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti and St. Vincent & The Grenadines -- would have joined the USA, Canada and Mexico, plus five Central American teams, in the final 12.
10 comments about "Concacaf might want to consider a double Hexagonal".
  1. R2 Dad, October 11, 2016 at 12:16 a.m.

    One of the problems with being more inclusive in CONCACAF is the level of play drops dramatically. When your team's primary advantage is the horrendous condition of Caribbean fields, what is gained, really?

  2. Bob Ashpole, October 11, 2016 at 3 a.m.

    On the other hand for the vast majority of nations, the CONCACAF qualifiers are their world cup. The double hexigonal is a good idea. The problem is that you would seed the four strongest teams two to each hexigonal. So instead of the 6 strongest teams playing each other before the finals, most of the matches would be relatively worthless as preparation for the finals. I think the double hexigonal idea should be held until and if FIFA next expands the number of nations at the finals.

  3. Brian Kraft replied, October 11, 2016 at 9 a.m.

    Both points are spot on. Perhaps the qualifying double-hexagonal would be acceptable to the US in concert with playing in the Copa America rather than the Copa Oro.

  4. Linda Gohl, October 11, 2016 at 9:59 a.m.

    I wonder how prohibitively expensive would it be for the richer countries to invest in one quality field in each of the poorer countries?

    Maybe not full investment, but some percentage base on the smaller nation's economy.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, October 11, 2016 at 3:33 p.m.

    The danger is that funds will be diverted into people's pockets.

  6. Daniel Clifton, October 11, 2016 at 10:35 a.m.

    I agree with Brian Kraft that the US needs to be attending the Copa America every time it is held. We can send our B team to the Copa Oro. A double hexagonal is going to lead to a lower quality of play for sure. I still don't see how you can accommodate the 3.5 places for Concacaf. So the top 2 in one group of 6 and the top 1 in the other 6 with a playoff with an Asian team for the final spot. The numbers don't add up.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, October 11, 2016 at 3:35 p.m.

    The 2 winners get spots and the 2 runner-ups have a playoff. The winner gets the full spot; the loser gets the half spot.

  8. Eric R., October 11, 2016 at 11:41 a.m.

    I like the idea of playing better competition regularly, so Copa America would be great. However, that's a CONMEBOL tourney and since we aren't invited every time, I don't think this is something we'll see (forget the logistical issues). I do wonder though if there isn't a way to allow some of the small islands to form joint teams. Many of those only have 2-3 pro players, maybe by pooling talent the overall level of play can improve.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, October 11, 2016 at 3:44 p.m.

    Eric I think most people believe national identity and pride are more important than climbing a few ranks in the FIFA rankings. I am not about to go to a foreign country and suggest that their men's national team's record is too poor for them to remain a country. You are thinking like these are lower division club teams seeking promotion.

  10. David Warren, October 11, 2016 at 10:04 p.m.

    Worst idea ever

    The US would never again play Mexico!

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