I’m have to preface this post by saying that I know this will never ever happen. But I can dream.
I’ve been sitting here in South America watching the start of another long world cup qualifying campaign and I’m completely jealous. The games have passion, everyone’s watching and the teams are fielding their best players. I compare it to the US/Mexico qualifying groups and just shake my head. Like I said, this will never happen, but roll with me for a minute:
I would absolutely love to see North and South America merge their World Cup qualifying groups to create one large super group. Concacaf, which is made up of USA, Mexico, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean, currently gets 3.5 spots in the World Cup: 3 automatic bids, plus the 4th place team plays Oceania’s champion in a playoff. The US and Mexico always make it and the qualifiers are completely boring. Unless something crazy happens, Mexico and the US qualify fairly early on and don’t really have that hard of a road into the World Cup.
Our group doesn’t provide a good test to prepare us for the World Cup and doesn’t make our team better. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that the US is pretty much a lock for the World Cup every four years, but I’d rather exchange our quasi-automatic birth for great qualifying trips to Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the rest of South America. I think the US would still be very likely to make the World Cup each time, but we’d be way better prepared when facing tough competition in international tournaments. I think the US has about a 95% chance of making the World Cup in its current group and we’d have about an 85% chance if we combined into one group.
Currently Concacaf gets 3.5 spots and Conmebol, South America’s federation, gets 4.5. I propose that North and South America combine to get 8 guaranteed spots, but teams 8 and 9 would have a one game playoff to see who makes the World Cup. There are 10 teams in South America and 35 in Concacaf. I would take the top 14 teams in Concacaf and create a 24 team group, with four groups of six. Eight of the 24 would make the World Cup.
South American teams would benefit because they would likely soak up 1-2 extra World Cup spots at the expense of teams like Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala. They would also expand their markets into Mexico and the US, likely earning more money and more exposure in foreign markets.
I think Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay and the US would likely make the World Cup pretty much every time. The other two spots would come down to a fight between Paraguay, Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. South America would get an extra 1-2 spots in the World Cup and Mexico and the US would have a harder road.
Like I said, I know this will never happen, but it is fun to dream. At the very least, a combined tournament between Concacaf and Conmebol to compete with the European Championships in off years from Copa America and the Gold Cup would be a welcome addition the world of soccer.