Concacaf President Montagliani sheds light on COVID challenges, WC qualification

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President of Concacaf and Vice-President of the FIFA Council, Victor Montagliani, was the key-note speaker at Soccerex in a Question and Answer session with Fox Sports Lead play-by-play Analyst John Strong earlier this week.

Montagliani discussed an array of topics concerning the Concacaf region, most notably how the Confederation has approached a return to competition and worked to support its Member Associations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have had some challenging times not just within Concacaf, but globally. A lot of it has been documented in terms of leagues that have been suspended and competitions that have been suspended. We’ve done a good job among confederations at the FIFA level with our relief plans, not just relief from a monetary standpoint, but also a statutory one in terms of helping out with contracts and things that needed to be done,” Montagliani said.

“Also, with the protocols put in place to get the game back up and running. You have seen the successes here in North America and the Concacaf region with leagues starting back up. I think the game is slowing coming back, maybe not as we would like it to be with fans and full stadiums, but football is a tough sport to keep down and it is slowly but surely coming back.”

He added: “I think a lot of the issues have been at the grassroots level with youth tournaments cancelled. Those are dreams of young people. I know that’s a tough thing, so it goes from grassroots to the Champions League level and it’s been impacted from all angles, but we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of bringing the game back.”

Challenges

Montagliani also talked about the challenges Concacaf and its 41 Member Associations are working through as they focus on re-starting football at both national team and club level.

“We are hoping to start World Cup qualifying next March. At the club level, we are hoping to start at the end of the year. It is challenging. Concacaf is challenging in the best of times with our travel and now with different requirements from each country. It’s not like other places in the world that are more homogenous in terms of governance, like Europe. Here, not only are there 41 different Member Associations, but 41 different governments. I think we have done a good job with our MAs in looking at what the protocols need to be in order for us to start our club competitions back up that require cross-border travel,” Montagliani pointed out.

Montagliani also shared what has been the greatest lesson learned during the COVID pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, the focus was on our similarities and it showed just how interconnected we all are. Players are from all over the world, assets are from all over the world, so it doesn’t matter which confederation it is, you have to rely on other parts of the globe to run your business, whether it’s the players that come in to play in your leagues, the global sponsors, fans, media. The interconnectivity became heightened and that led to an unprecedented cooperation, whether it was calendars, contracts or the COVID relief plan. I hope that continues in the post-COVID era and we don’t go back to a zero-sum attitude,” said Montagliani.

World Cup qualification

With an expanded FIFA World Cup format set for the 2026 edition in the Concacaf region in the United States, Mexico and Canada, there is an opportunity for an unprecedented number of Concacaf teams to participate in the 2026 World Cup.

“We have an opportunity as Concacaf to have six direct spots and two through the playoff, so we could have eight Concacaf teams in the World Cup, so our goal is to have eight Concacaf teams in the World Cup. That’s a sign of all of the work that we have been doing, whether it’s the Nations League, the youth tournaments. That is the end goal, to have eight teams at the 2026 World Cup,” said Montagliani. (Concacaf)

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