CONCACAF to overhaul 'archaic' World Cup qualifying format
World Cup qualifying in North America is set to be overhauled to avoid shutting out the majority of countries in the CONCACAF region so early.
CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani has instigated a review of an "archaic" format that leaves only six out of the region's 35 teams still in with a shot at qualifying for Russia in 2018.
Alongside a potential new name to replace the corruption-tainted CONCACAF brand, revamping qualifying to be more inclusive has emerged as a key objective for Montagliani after five months in charge of the confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean.
"Something needs to change because you can't have 85 per cent 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."
Since qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, CONCACAF has used a system where teams play home and away in early rounds. Once 12 nations are remaining there are three groups of four, which produces six teams for a final round.
The United States, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago are the last teams standing, chasing three of CONCACAF's automatic qualification places. Starting next month, they play each other twice in a league.
"It's great for those six teams over the next year and a bit but how about the other ones?" Montagliani said. "It's hard."
Montagliani said CONCACAF competitions and the interests of teams were neglected in an era when the leadership was motivated by corruptly extorting money from the confederation and its commercial backers.
"We seriously need to look at our World Cup qualifying system that is a bit archaic. We need to be a bit more all-encompassing. We're looking at how we balance competitions with our commercial (priorities) without putting too much stress on already too busy calendars as well."
But Montagliani is certain qualifying must change, although there could be a proliferation of games that draw smaller crowds and little broadcast revenue.