In advance of Wednesday’s official announcement of the new Nations League, CONCACAF released details. The new competition will start during the September 2018 international window, but through March of 2019 those games will serve as qualifying for the Nations League. The six teams that made the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying during the 2018 cycle will not have to qualify. That means the USMNT will not have Nations League games until next year.
“CONCACAF Nations League Qualifying represents a watershed moment for CONCACAF and its 41-member family,” CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani said in a press statement. “When the ball rolls in September, it will mark a new era of international football for our Member Associations, conceived in line with our ONE CONCACAF vision, during which all our countries have the chance to weigh themselves against the Confederation’s best, while widely developing national team football on and off the field.”
CONCACAF is also introducing a new regional rankings system that will seed the Nations League. That ranking debuts this month with Mexico in 1st-place and the USMNT in 2nd.
CONCACAF Nations League Qualifying Draw Procedures
The 2018 CONCACAF Nations League Qualifying Draw will be conducted using four (4) pots containing all eligible participating Member Associations (PMAs), except for the six (6) teams that participated in the Hexagonal Round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Russia 2018.
Based on the CONCACAF Ranking Index, all eligible teams will be divided into the four pots (A, B, C & D) as follows:
- Pot A will include the top eight (8) ranked participating teams — Jamaica, Canada, Haiti, El Salvador, Martinique, Cuba, French Guiana and Guadeloupe.
- Pot B will include the next nine (9) ranked teams after Pot A — Nicaragua, St. Kitts & Nevis, Curacao, Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Guyana and Belize.
- Pot C will include the next nine (9) ranked teams after Pot B — Bonaire, Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Dominica and Aruba.
- Pot D will include the final eight (8) ranked teams — Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint-Martin, Sint Maarten, Anguilla and British Virgin Islands.
A computerized pre-draw has produced a Master Schedule for Nations League Qualifying, creating seventeen (17) fixtures for each of the four (4) FIFA match windows. Since time constraints make larger scale round-robin play among 34 teams unfeasible, this innovative, equally-weighted draw will result in a competitively balanced four-match fixture list for each nation. The computer model assures that no teams face each other more than once, and that each team plays two (2) home and two (2) away matches.
- The order of the match ups per each FIFA match window will be as follows:
- Match Day 1 – September 2018: Pot A vs. Pot D, and Pot B vs. Pot C.
- Match Day 2 – October 2018: Pot A vs. Pot C, and Pot B vs. Pot D, plus one team from Pot B vs. one team from Pot C.
- Match Day 3 – November 2018: Pot A vs. Pot B, and Pot C vs. Pot D, plus one team from Pot B vs. one team from Pot C.
- Match Day 4 – March 2019: Pot A vs. Pot A, Pot B vs. Pot B, Pot C vs. Pot C, and Pot D vs. Pot D, plus one team from Pot B vs. one team from Pot C.
The master schedule will be pre-populated with all sixty-eight (68) match-ups identified by place holders representing all the teams from the four (4) respective pots. The teams in Pot A will be identified as A1 to A8. The teams in Pot B will be B1 to B9. The teams in Pot C will be C1 to C9. The teams in Pot D will be D1 to D8.
The draw will commence by drawing all the teams from Pot A in sequential order, and placing them as they are drawn into the master schedule, with the place assigned according to the order in which each team is drawn. Next, all the teams from Pot D will be drawn and placed in the same manner. Once all the teams have been drawn from Pot D, the draw will continue by drawing and placing all teams from Pot B, followed by drawing and placing all teams from Pot C.
By drawing all teams from Pots A, B, C and D and assigning their place for Match Day 1, the Master Schedule will be automatically populated with all sixty-eight (68) fixtures of the four FIFA match windows for the entire Nations League Qualifying phase.
Graphic courtesy of CONCACAF