Coronavirus could put an end to CONCACAF Hex

Victor Montagliani

The novel coronavirus outbreak  could put an end to the Hex, the six-team World Cup qualifying format used by the CONCACAF region, said CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani in a recent interview with Canada’s OneSoccer.

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on sport and soccer schedules around the globe, qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup is likely to be impacted as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is forced to overhaul the international calendar.

In the CONCACAF region, which includes North and Central America as well as the Caribbean, the top six countries in the  FIFA rankings qualify for a spot in the Hex.

The top three teams in the Hex earn World Cup places with the fourth-placed team advancing to a playoff.

But Montagliani conceded that is likely to change.

“On the balance of probabilities, in terms of what has happened so far and what will likely continue to happen, the current World Cup format will have to be changed,” said Montagliani.

“Which means, ultimately, that the Hex will have to be changed into some other form.

“Obviously it will be bigger, but what that number is, I don’t know until we have a calendar.”

Currently the top six CONCACAF nations in the FIFA rankings are Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras and El Salvador.

Canada are seventh and would be the first to benefit from an expanded format whatever that might be.

“You’re going to have 35 countries and until we know from FIFA how many windows we have, it is going to be very hard for me to say it is this,” said Montagliani.

“Yes, you are 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) you are going to have to do some sort of elimination process and then eventually get into some group stage process.

“But I don’t know that yet until we know what the FIFA calendar is going to look like.

The last time an English-speaking Caribbean nation reached the FIFA World Cup was in 2006, when Trinidad and Tobago finished fourth in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal and advanced to the play-off against Bahrain, the fifth-placed team in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifying tournament.

The Soca Warriors earned a place in the World Cup after defeating Bahrain 2-1 on aggregate in that AFC-CONCACAF play-off, but they did not make it to the knockout stage.