Concacaf president Montagliani: World Cup qualifying format likely to change due to coronavirus delays

Christian Pulisic Edson Alvarez Mexico USA USMNT Gold Cup 2019
Jonathan Daniel
The traditional Hexagonal phase may need alterations as a result of the coronavirus outbreak

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani says that the federation will most likely need to change its World Cup qualifying format as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The current qualifying format is based around the Hexagonal format, which sees a final group of six teams battle for qualifying spots with those six teams chosen based on FIFA rankings.

Currently, the Hexagonal is scheduled to begin this September, although the coronavirus outbreak has put that in severe jeopardy.

The format sees the top three teams qualify directly for the World Cup, with the fourth-placed team facing the winner of a competition involving the remaining 35 CONCACAF teams with the winner of that round progressing to the inter-continental playoffs in March 2022.

And, with no return date in sight, Montagliani admitted that it is very likely Concacaf will need to alter its qualifying format to fit in all the games required ahead of that 2022 playoff.

“I think we’re also looking at the balance of possibilities and probabilities and if this calendar is going to change, how is it going to change and how will it affect the format of World Cup qualifying, which in likelihood will happen,” Montagliani said.

Additionally, El Salvador and Canada are currently locked in a race to seal that sixth and final spot in the Hex, with El Salvador currently just ahead in the FIFA rankings.

As a result of the international fixtures already canceled due to Covid-19, both El Salvador and Canada have missed opportunities to lock down their spot in the Hex.

“That, to be honest, brings in a snippet of an integrity issue when teams haven’t been able to play,” Montagliani said. “What we’re committed to is ensuring the format, whatever the format will be, has to fit into what the new calendar is going to look like and also be done from a sporting standpoint.”

He added: “We may have to look at reformatting what this looks like—whether this is a Hexagonal or some other shape that is part of a kid’s block set. What we don’t know is what this thing will look like.”

Additionally, Concacaf remains committed to finishing off the ongoing Nations League after postponing the semifinal and final that were set for June.

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The U.S. is set to take on Honduras in one matchup while Mexico will face Costa Rica in the other.

“It has brought our confederation together,” he said. “It has brought the confederation alive, and it would be irresponsible for us not to finish it off. 

"We’re committed to that. It’s not the hardest thing to fit into the calendar. It’s only two match days. We’re committed to all our competitions.”