There is always something you can do to improve yourself, especially if you are the person being tasked with taking charge of Canadian soccer. That being said, there is always something to write about as well. Sometimes it is hard to come up with content. At other times, it is handed to you on a silver platter. This is one of those times.
CONCACAF has just announced that it will be forming a League of Nations (much like the model that UEFA will be adopting) to complement its World Cup qualifying cycle. Much of the reasoning behind this plan is to give weight to the other dates on the international calendar – the “meaningless friendlies” so to speak. By all accounts, we will see a format unveiled by early 2018. This is big news for many of CONCACAF’s 41 members, as it satisfies a need that is so lacking in this part of the world.
Many of the national teams in the region do not play enough matches. That in itself is a problem. Numerous countries crash out of World Cup qualifying in the early stages, some of them even three years before the tournament starts. This is a big conundrum for the confederation, as it stunts the development of national team programs through inactivity. Canada is no exception.
This is one of the many ills that Canada faces. We don’t play enough matches away from the Gold Cup and our futile WCQ cycles. This proposal by CONCACAF will help us address the issue. In theory, we should witness more matches during international breaks – and against regional opponents nonetheless. Canada has often been handed “Group of Death” scenarios due to its poor FIFA ranking – you can’t pick up ranking points if you’re not playing games. This is a real opportunity for us, and we should embrace it.
Although the format hasn’t been revealed, it looks like there will be a promotion/relegation model, much like the European version that will be implemented. There will also be 3 divisions within it. For argument’s sake, let us presume a top tier of 12, a second tier of 14, and a third tier of 15. There is no reason why Canada shouldn’t be in the top division, even in our current state. This should also be the case if the top tier was 10 teams. If we consistently play our competitive rivals and pick up positive results, and in turn steer clear of relegation, that is all we can ask for. Anything to improve our ranking and potentially avoid a World Cup qualifying “Group of Death” is an ideal scenario.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be detractors to this proposal, like there always is for anything that requires change. For instance, The United States and Mexico will not have many opportunities to organize glamour friendlies with European and South American competition. Matches like the recent US v Portugal showpiece would be few and far between. But if the latest results of CONCACAF WC qualifiers are any indication, maybe the US could do with a little more of an increased focus on its regional rivals.
We don’t know what the future holds for CONCACAF in future WCQ cycles. Whether it’s a CONMEBOL style tournament or a revamped version of the current group stage format, a League of Nations will be a welcomed addition to the calendar. It isn’t everyday that CONCACAF throws Canada a bone.
Let’s grab it and run with it.
By William Jamieson