Thursday, September 11, 2008


So the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica are all on nine points after three qualifiers apiece. Each nation is pretty much through to the Hexagonal, though I haven't done the math. Maybe they are in for sure, don't know.

And while it's a great accomplishment for each nation to be 3-0 at this point, it's not exactly surprising. It's actually kind of expected that each team is where they are.

Which brings me to my question: is this semifinal round really necessary for the Big Three?

There are arguments for both sides of the question.

On the one hand, you don't want to give any team free passes. Let the Big Three mix it up with the rest and let them go through qualifying like any other CONCACAF nation. You don't necessarily want to make it any easier for the big dogs' already, they've gotten themselves to the point where they are the regional powers. At some point, Mexico should be at the same level as Canada regardless of past accomplishments, right?

Then again, we all know what's going to happen. The Big Three will cruise in this round and easily get into the Hex. There was some intrigue in 2000 with Costa Rica and Guatemala fighting out for the last Hex spot but that is ancient history as the previous cycle showed. All this round does is show the disparity between the region's upper crust and the supposed second tier. If Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and some others are supposed to be the second tier, this region is in sad shape.

I don't know, though. I'm not sure what else can be done to change this system. It's a lot to ask the Big Three to play 18 qualifiers over an 18-month span when the outcome isn't hardly ever in doubt for them. Many of us dream about some sort of merger with South America but I don't think that is realistic, though the prospect of some real high-intensity qualifiers makes my mouth water. Can you imagine the US going down to Quito needing a result to get into the World Cup? Talk about drama, more drama than the US going into piss-poor Cuba and playing on some crappy field with crappy lighting and getting a boring three points.

Maybe CONMEBOL might be up for that, though. They get 4 spots right now guaranteed with a chance of a fifth. That fifth spot would be against a CONCACAF nation so there are 8 total spots from the Western Hemisphere. If CONMEBOL had a shot of getting six teams in, maybe that would be some incentive for nations like Chile and Colombia to push for a merger since it'd be easier for them to face the US or Costa Rica needing a spot in the World Cup than Brazil or Argentina.

Okay, well, I'm totally daydreaming now. Yes, it'd be fantastic. No, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

In reality, the US, Mexico and Costa Rica will be in the Hex next year with Honduras, El Salvador and Trinidad/Guatemala. The US will win all five home games, lose in Mexico City and San Jose, win in San Salvador and Port-of-Spain/Guatemala City and draw in San Pedro Sula and many will feel that the US has a grand shot of reaching the WC quarters again because qualifying was a breeze when in actuality qualifying will give many a false sense of security for qualifying in such a brisk manner does little to prepare the team for real competition. Mexico in Azteca is real competition; Guatemala in Guatemala City is not.


Anonymous said...

total waste of time... i don't get fifa on this... is it all about revenue? i thought mexico was going to have a tough group, but honestly, canada and jamaica have been a bust. the canadians have looked just terrible... the jamaicans pretty much the same... teams completely out of ideas. what's the point? it's gotta be about the revenues these games generate... look at the standings... guatemala/t&t is ptetty much the only open question at this point.

concacaf just looks far behind the rest of the world. i am starting to question the whole idea of having three teams from this area go straight to the world cup... the level has been so low... it's embarrassing... there should be two teams going through... a third into repechaje would be fair, i think.

saludos, d

Anonymous said...

I agree, the level of play has been low in most games... no fault of the big three. USA, MEX, and CR have been getting the job done in workmanlike fashion and that is impressive in some ways.

What is more disappointing is how badly some teams have played. Just look at Canada, they desperately needed a victory & 3 points but you wouldn't know it the way they lined up and played in a 4-5-1. Jamaica packed it in vs. Mexico as well.
That's just bad for the region, bad for fans, bad for the players.


Anonymous said...

Poverty and the Countries GDP have alot to do with it. Carribean and Most central american leagues are not profitable and lack Infastructure. They Substandard stadiums except (for a few). Corrupt officals & money syphoning. Not paying players on time. All add to this. And quality of life for players in these countries.

Honestly just give Mex and the US a Bye to the final Hex. Make the hex an eight team home and away.

Have central america and canada placed in two groups of four have the best two from each group advance to the final eight.

Have the best two caribbean teams advance from a caribbean tourney to the final eight.

adjust the number of spots per region based on results in the final eight. in following qualifying tourneys

Anonymous said...

poverty? gdp? that doesn't explain canada's performances... i would bet the leagues in central america are rather profitable... corruption? that would mean mexico would not be where it is... nah, i don't buy that.

Jester said...

Everyone says that "to improve, the US needs better competition". Well, the same goes for Caribean and Central American teams. It is vital that all teams play in these rounds. The Money generated, and the experience the players get, is invaluable. In the long run it leads to a stronger confederation, which can only be good for the USA.

The same thing can be said for UEFA, where the same debate is being held.

Anonymous said...

the merger idea is an interesting one... but i do think that would be the end of mexico and the us going to the world cup... the level of south america is far above concacaf's... mexico would be reduced to one world cup every twenty years...

Anonymous said...

Really ask Cienfuegos how well things went for him in EL Salvador coaching a first division side. quit because his players werent getting paid. Sorry i forgot to exlude Canada. Its mostly about central america and the caribbean. Third world countries save for a few islands(i.e Puerto rico, and trinidad). Mexico Benefits hugely from ex pats living here. Ever wonder why their team and nats schedule so many games in the states. !$$$$$$$! Mexican purchasing power in this country its enormous. It's why Teams like Chivas Guad have Telemundo(NBC Owned) as their official broadcaster for league games, Its why Super Classicos average huge TV ratings higher than some Pro Football games on the same day. Canada is a different issue they lack real vision and leadershipn @ the The fed. They will eventually get there once these things change, and start developing infrastructure(which they are) they need a bradenton type system to complement the three pro teams that set up youth acadamies.

If GDP and quality of Life isn't and issue then tell me why Europe so successful.I Don't see many third world countries there with GDP's Lower than Central America and the caribbean. If quality of life isnt and issue. Where would you rather work as a coach? Nicaragua or Croatia?

This is why UEFA champions league so successfull. Every league in Europe has great infrastructure and Money due to the countries GDP and purchasing power. This doesnt exist in concacaf. South America is the same thing stronger economic countries.

Basically it comes down money in the region. Money isnt being dumped into the sports infrastructure(modern stadiums, and facilities) and development. This money comes from tv rights sponsers and fans. if a country is poor than theres no money.

Ask any central american the reason Mexico and the US are better they have the money to invest in the sport.

Anonymous said...

The World Cup play is all about one thing for the US - who you play in preparation.

Play a tough as nails competition like we did going into 02, and we'll be ready. Play the patsies we did going into 06, and we won't.


Anonymous said...

This is pointless. The only thing that is gained by this round is to increase the chance of injuries.

If we need to have a first round at all, why not let the biggest 3 skip and have the Central Americans fight for two spots and the Caribbean Countries + Canada fight for one spot?

To be fair, the only country that is benefiting from this is Costa Rica as they are having a hard time getting quality opponents. Granted, Haiti and the rest are not quality, but it does give them a chance to try and find some rythm.