Miami (AFP) – The governing body for football in North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) confirmed a radical overhaul of international soccer in the region on Thursday, announcing plans for a competitive “League of Nations” tournament aimed at replacing friendlies.
The new competition would see 41 CONCACAF members split into three divisions, playing each other on a home-and-away basis, with promotion and relegation between the three leagues.
The CONCACAF League of Nations mirrors a similar shake up in Europe, where UEFA is launching its own Nations League from September 2018.
A statement from CONCACAF said the the League of Nations would kick off next September. Details of the schedule and structure of the divisions would be unveiled in early 2018.
“This is a watershed moment for CONCACAF. By focusing on football to provide all our teams with year-round, quality competition, the League of Nations platform means everyone wins,” CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said in a statement.
“This new tournament is highly beneficial to all our Member Associations and fans everywhere, since it provides significant opportunities to play important competitive matches with increased regularity throughout the year,” he added.
CONCACAF said the competition would also help determine which teams play in the region’s continental championship, the Gold Cup, held every two years.
League of Nations results would also be used in a ranking system to determine seedings for World Cup qualifiers, CONCACAF added.
A separate statement on the CONCACAF website said the new format would benefit smaller members of the region by providing more regular competitive football.
“Saint-Martin played in two competitive matches from 2014-2016,” CONCACAF said. “Thanks to the League of Nations, that same member association will take part in 12-16 consequential encounters.”
With matches being played during the FIFA international windows currently used for friendlies, the new format means that teams from the region will almost certainly play fewer friendlies against opponents from outside the region.
CONCACAF maintained however “there will still be space for these types of encounters.”
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