New Concacaf president Victor Montagliani
has signaled the regional organization is considering a
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
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.
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.