Wednesday’s soccer news starts with World Cup qualifying getting underway in Europe and Concacaf. Those two confederations are the last to join the party, with AFC and CAF starting the long road to 2022 in 2019 and CONMEBOL last October. Unlike Concacaf, UEFA starts with all 55 of its countries involved, divided into groups of five or six teams.
March is a three-game window in Europe, meaning three of the 10 games will happen before Euro 2020 takes place this summer. UEFA qualifying resumes in September with another three-game window. The group winners advance directly to the World Cup with 2nd-place teams moving to the second round of qualifying. It’s that second round of qualifying where things get interesting.
UEFA is adding two Nations League teams to the second round of World Cup qualifying. Specifically, it’s the two 2020-21 Nations League group stage winners that didn’t already qualify or advance to the second round. That brings the total number of teams in the second round to 12. UEFA then divides that into three groups of four. Each group is its own mini-tournament in a single-elimination format. The winner of each group advances to the World Cup.
Is there a better way to do this? Undoubtedly. The last time around, FIFA put eight runners-up into two pots and played them off against each other in a home-and-away playoff round. The four winners advanced to the World Cup. That system was in place since 1998. In 1994, UEFA went with six groups and advanced the top two finishers in each. In 1990, an odd number of places meant that one of the seven groups didn’t advance its second-place team. Groundbreaking stuff there, going with the obvious.
This time next year, UEFA will have its mini-tournaments. What that adds to qualifying could turn into something quite interesting. Given the number of upsets we’re seeing at league level and in European competitions, it’s tough to pick favorites. The long history of major European countries having issues with winning their qualifying groups should add to the uncertainty. Based on that, UEFA could end up with more major names in their playoff field next March than anybody expected.
Also in the soccer news, FIFA announced a new ban for former president Sepp Blatter and former secretary general Jerome Valcke. Both were found guilty of ethics violations by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. Namely, the authorization of bonus payments when both were FIFA employees.
“Consequently, Messrs Blatter and Valcke have both been sanctioned with bans from all football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level for a period of six years and eight months,” the statement read. “In addition, fines to the amount of CHF 1,000,000 have been imposed on both Messrs Blatter and Valcke.”
Moving to MLS, the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup will happen in 2021, beginning on August 9 and running through the week of September 20. NYCFC, Orlando City, Seattle, and Sporting KC will represent MLS.
“The announcement regarding the return of Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup is crucial for the project to internationalize Liga MX,” Liga MX president Mikel Arriola, said. “We know that North America has a large number of fans, and over 30% on average of the audience for our league’s games comes from the United States, which speaks to the importance of getting closer to our fanbase in the northern region of the continent. I’m sure that with Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup we will enjoy a great show.”
SI.com’s Brian Straus explains how USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter is using the role of captain. Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy profiles USMNT and Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent. AP’s Andrew Dampf reports that CBS is taking over Serie A rights in 2021-22. ESPN’s Mark Ogden explains the issues for foreign players during the pandemic. The Independent’s Miguel Delaney with growing calls for a 2022 World Cup boycott.
All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at email@example.com
Logo courtesy of UEFA