By Michael Lewis
At least don’t hold your breath about it.
Former U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said Saturday the traditional Concacaf World Cup qualifying hexagonal is “very unlikely to happen,” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All international soccer has been postponed since the virus hit in March, causing havoc with schedules. That includes qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“I think the hex is off more likely it will be some sort of group format in the remaining time we have,” Cordeiro said Saturday during the U.S. Soccer’s board meeting. “Both the men and women are likely to get additional FIFA windows next year to make up for lost playing time this year. That might come too late for the men’s qualifiers.”
One idea floating around, according to sources, is to take 12 Concacaf teams and places them in three groups of four teams apiece. Each group winner would qualify for Qatar with the team with the fourth best record playing in a special intercontinental playoff.
“A lot will depend on how many windows, FIFA windows, we have,” Cordeiro said during the Zoom meeting. “I think FIFA will give us more windows. But that aside, we don’t really know when it will be safe to play. Obviously, there are players all over the world trying to bring them together in a camp, It’s difficult. So a lot it will depend on the safety issues, a lot will depend on when we could start.”
The FIFA Council will decide on the Concacaf qualifying process for 2022, after the confederation recommends on what path to take.
The Concacaf Council is set to meet at the end of next week, the FIFA Council in two weeks. Former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, Cordeiro’s predecessor, said he didn’t think the FIFA Council would consider the WCQ proposal at this meeting, but “hopefully at the next meeting in July or August.”
“That’s pretty important for us for a lot of different reasons on what that format is,” Gulati said.
“The big issue right now obviously is the match calendar and no one know where that’s headed. International soccer poses far greater problems than domestic travel because you’ve got to travel across borders, visas, health, etc. etc. No one knows when that’s coming back. Some confederations will be playing in September. We won’t be. Hopefully, Concacaf is about to play in October, but we don’t know that yet because we don’t know what’s happening in the U.S. We’ll see.”
The FIFA Council also will decide the host of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. New Zealand and Australia had the best technical reports, with Japan not too far behind and Columbia a distant third, Gulati said. Brazil dropped out last week.
“I believe the leadership wants the [Concacaf] Council to come to a consensus and we’ll vote as a block on behalf of one of them,” Cordeiro said.