THERE is speculation that Trinidad and Tobago could be one of the national football teams to benefit from a change in Concacaf’s qualifying process for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Reports out of Panama and the United States suggest that Concacaf could adopt a new format for 2022 World Cup qualifying. Concacaf is set to abandon the Hexagonal format involving the six top teams in the region in favour of a new one that would include as many as 12 teams in that upper tier, including T&T, currently ranked 11th in Concacaf.
T&T, however, have their own problems as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association is facing an impending court battle with FIFA, after the world body took over the running of local football on March 17, installing a normalisation committee headed by businessman Robert Hadad.
First disclosed by Panamanian outlet RPC and subsequently reported in the United States by Donald Wine, the reports have not been confirmed by Concacaf, which governs football in the Caribbean, North and Central America.
The latest and still unconfirmed suggestion is that the 12 top-ranked Concacaf teams would contest the top tier qualifying series, leaving 23 others to battle for a playoff spot.
If adopted, the new format would consist of Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador, Canada, Curaçao, Panama, Haiti, T&T and also Antigua and Barbuda.
The top 12 teams according to the FIFA world rankings, would be split into three groups of four for a stage of round-robin home-and-away qualifiers.
The winners of each group would earn direct qualification to the 2022 World Cup. The second place team from each group would join the winners of the lower tier qualification tournament (which consists of teams 13-35 in the region) in a mini tournament. The winners of that four-team bracket would advance to represent Concacaf in the inter-confederation playoff, where they could earn a spot in the World Cup with a win.
The speculation comes after Concacaf’s Canadian president Victor Montagliani, announced last month a likely change to Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying due to time lost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The current World Cup format will have to be changed,” Montagliani said last month. “Ultimately the ‘Hex’ would have to be changed into some other form. Obviously it would be bigger.”
The controversial original format would have seen the top six world-ranked Concacaf teams battle for three automatic spots to Qatar, while the other 29 would play a supplemental competition, the winners of which would battle the fourth-placed ‘Hex’ team for a spot into an intercontinental playoff. That format was to be adopted for the Qatar World Cup, and garnered widespread criticism.
With Concacaf’s calendar drastically affected by Covid-19 restrictions, Montagliani hinted at changes.
“On the balance of probability, we are going to have to change our World Cup (2022) format. For me, two reasons, one is the calendar. We will not be able to play all of these games,” the Concacaf’s boss had said.
Secondly, the Canadian feels that because of the Covid-19 shutdown, the current system of a half-dozen teams qualifying for the ‘Hex” simply based on the highest FIFA rankings, might not give the region its strongest representation at the World Cup.