LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) – CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani said Wednesday the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic would likely force changes to the structure of the region’s qualifying competition for the 2022 World Cup.
In an interview with Canada’s Onesoccer.com website, Montagliani said he expected CONCACAF’s traditional “Hexagonal” final round of qualifying would have to be scrapped under the reforms.
For the 2018 World Cup, six teams played in a home-and-away round-robin group with the top three teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean qualifying directly for the finals in Russia and the fourth place team entering a playoff.
However Montagliani said the global sporting shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would likely mean the loss of important FIFA international windows ahead of the 2022 World Cup, meaning reforms to the qualifying structure were inevitable.
“I think on the balance of probabilities in terms of what has happened so far, and what likely will continue to happen, the current World Cup format will have to be changed,” Montagliani said.
“Which means that ultimately the ‘Hex’ will have to be changed into some other form.”
Montagliani did not provide any details of what a reformed qualifying competition might look like however.
“Obviously it will be bigger, but what that number is I don’t know until we have a calendar,” he said.
“Until we know from FIFA how many windows we have it’s going to be very hard for me to say it’s going to be this, that or the other.
“Because even on some of the modelling that my competitions guys are working on in their basements right now, depending on what this calendar looks like, whatever you’ve thought of you might have to redo that.”
Montagliani said however he expected FIFA rankings would be used to help formulate preliminary rounds of qualifying.
“You’re going to have to use FIFA rankings to start somewhere because that’s the reality of our confederation and in terms of having 35 teams,” he said.
“You’re going to have to do some kind of elimination process and then get into some kind of group stage process.”