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CONCACAF agrees to launch new Nations League, starting September 2018

CONCACAF appears to be adding a new tournament for North American, Central American, and Caribbean countries.

Reuters reports that the competition will be called the Nations League and will feature all 41 member countries of the confederation.

The tournament, slated to begin in September 2018, will see those nations split into three divisions, based on their “sporting level” with promotion and relegation to occur. The tournament will also serve as a qualifying route to the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, which takes place every two years and is next to occur in 2019.

“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,” CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani told Reuters. “The biggest difference between our Nations League and the UEFA, is that their nations were already playing a significant amount of games… But for us it was to allow our countries to play a minimum amount of games over a four year window,” he added.

The format is very similar to UEFA’s Nations League in Europe which will also begin next year, but Montagliani believes it will address the problem facing the region’s smaller, often Caribbean island nations who have found it hard to get regular competitive action.

“Our bigger countries have the capacity to do that but the way our system was, in my opinion was archaic and you had countries who were playing four to six games in a four year period. It is kind of hard then to develop football in any capacity,” he said.

Montagliani stated that the format of the tournament will be finalized in more detail by February 2018.

“I said when I was elected that it is time for this confederation to be about football. We have been looking at all our competitions and this is the continuation of our philosophy that football is first. This confederation needs to show that – and we have.”

UPDATE: CONCACAF confirmed the news in a press release on Thursday. “The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) announced today its Council’s approval of the CONCACAF League of Nations,” it reads, “a new national team competition platform designed to maximize the quality, quantity and frequency of competitive matches for all 41 CONCACAF member associations. The announcement comes following a year-long development and consultation process involving the Member Associations and key stakeholders.

“The new CONCACAF League of Nations will be based on a league structure. All 41 CONCACAF Member Associations will be included, divided in three different leagues, based on their sporting level, with a champion to be crowned at the end of each edition. To seed Member Associations into their respective leagues, the League of Nations will begin with a preliminary series of matches played across four different dates beginning in September 2018.”


  1. While I personally think this is a horrible idea, since it is going to be done the US, Mex, & C.R. need to find a way to make this benefit their programs. If I had a voice/choice on how to turn this into a potential positive, this is what I’d do if I was part of USA, Mexico, & Costa Rica federations…
    1) Any match against a country other than one of US, Mex, & CR, use a squad comprised similar to how the Olympics are devised. All players to be age eligible for the next Olympics (2020) with 3 “Over Aged” players to provide leadership. This would definitely help (the US at least) improve our depth quality, over time, by helping transition players from the youth ranks to the Sr. National Team.
    2) Since this tournament is deemed “Competitive Matches” it would make games “Cap Tying”….so again the Benefit to the US, Mex, CR….could be to lock up some of our emerging talent. I’m not just speaking about Mex/American duel nationals…but others countries as well. El Salvador could have made a run at Corona. Roldan could have gone to Honduras. Bunbery could have gone to Canada.

    If we’re going to be forced into this tournament, we have to find someway to gain a benefit from it. Getting young players transitioned from the youth ranks to the Sr. National team, and securing the services of prospects by cap tying them are the 2 most obvious benefits….but hopefully there are more.

  2. “The tournament, slated to begin in September 2018, will see those nations split into three divisions, based on their “sporting level” WITH PROMOTION AND RELEGATION TO OCCUR.”

    well, since i guess we have no choice, i guess i will enjoy watching the improvement and development of the smaller footballing nations in our confed.

  3. “The tourney offers smaller nations the opportunity to play other, usually better, national teams more often which can only serve to help them get better.”

    right, that’s why everyone posting here wants to see the usa playing against Europe and sa

    “As long as the US still has opportunities to schedule friendlies against other more competitive teams, this Nations League can only be a good thing in the long run.”

    apparently, the purpose of this tournament is to eliminate friendlies. correct?

  4. So much shortsightedness in these comments, especially for a group of fans so wholeheartedly calling for US Soccer to look to the future. As boring as this tourney will be for the next 10-15 years from a US perspective, it will only help us in the long run. The tourney offers smaller nations the opportunity to play other, usually better, national teams more often which can only serve to help them get better. As they get better, the begin to offer stiffer and stiffer competition for those better teams, forcing them to get better. Overall, down the road, CONCACAF will slowly but surely raise its level of play. As long as the US still has opportunities to schedule friendlies against other more competitive teams, this Nations League can only be a good thing in the long run. And i dont know about you guys, but 10, 20, or 30 years from now when this starts to pay off, i will still be a diehard USMNT fan, and i look forward to seeing them be a better team then than they are now and i firmly believe this will be one of the things that help make that happen.

  5. Agree with many above. I think that CONCACAF in many ways is very underrated. BUT…..that doesn’t mean that I think playing Canada and El Salvador more times instead of Argentina and Germany is a good idea.

    I hope it helps the smaller countries, I hope it helps the mid size countries, but my fear is that small island nation playing small island nation in third division draws no one with no TV audience and after a short time they get sick of losing money from it. And it wont help the Mexico, CR, and the US and will probably hurt them.

    Guys blaming Sunil is just insane. UEFA went for the money grab. It snowballed from there. It will probably work. I see US soccer fans watching Norway-England, while ignoring Costa Rico-Mexico.
    What was CONCACAF going to do at the point that Europe and South America where doing it?

  6. Will it be cap tying? Would rather have seen something that included South America. We wont get anything out of playing Aruba but playing Chile or Peru would be worth while.

    • Mike R. , My initial reaction was that this is stupid and how does this help Mexico, Costa Rica, and the US progress on the world stage? It doesn’t.

      But you make a really good point. If it is cap tying, at least that is a benefit.
      Well, for better or worse as we compete more and more with Mexico for players.

  7. if you want to rank the usa higher in the world rankings than they actually are (i think fifa has been doing this for years), eliminating international friendlies between concacaf and Europe helps to muddy the waters. the next time fifa ranks the usa #4 in the world (hello!!), it will be that much harder to claim it’s wrong if we Don’t play any teams who actually ARE at that level and who could easily beat us. (even if they are friendlies)

    • There are really about 4-5 teams in the world that play at that elite level who could “easily beat us”. Argentina was a clear cut above us when they toyed with us in the Copa America Centenario; after that we were able to challenge Colombia (twice) and we were a distinct cut above Ecuador and Paraguay.

      Aside from the true elites I don’t really think there’s a ton of difference between slots 6-30, and while we probably rate on the lower end of that scale at the moment, there have been times we’ve been closer to the middle, too, and any of those teams can probably beat any of the others on any given day.

      • but but but we can barely get past Panama, Jamaica when we need to. our ranking is more like 150 in the world, yes?

  8. I’m still waiting to hear how CONCACAF plans to pay for all of the D2 and D3 Nations League Games. Contrary to what the CONCACAF President said, nobody in CONCACAF has any trouble getting a game. Montserrat, USVI, St Lucia, etc. could all schedule each other quite easily. In fact, the smallest of these minnows could schedule far more friendlies than the USMNT does. It’s not like the USVI have to worry about the FIFA international window given that all of their players are amateurs.

    The reason they don’t schedule more games is because they can’t afford to. For a bunch of teams who barely average a couple thousand fans for World Cup qualifiers (in fact when I researched this earlier this year, I found a couple federations who have never had more than 1000 fans at any of their games) this new Nations League is not going to produce a big enough gate to be sustainable.

  9. I guess concacaf felt forced to act because of what Europe was doing, but it is really hard to see this being taken seriously by anyone except the hardest core fans. what is in it for the US or Mexico? I wonder if concacaf made a serious effort to team up with south America nations, because that is the only way I could see this being really on par with Europe. if conmebal said no, then I guess concacaf has no choice. A shame, because a combined Americas league would be really sweet.

  10. One of the most useless ideas to ever come about. How much money will they lose before it is abandoned?

    How beneficial is it for the top hex teams to help the minnows improve but does nothing for themselves.

    We only have to look at what MLS has done for the other CONCACAF teams. Given them opportunity to become as good as our domestic players and we couldn’t even get a point again T&T (worst team in Hex).

    Great idea Sunil!!!!

    CONCACAF refs are the worst. Phantom goal Panama, anyone ???

  11. The smaller Caribbean nations should combine into one FIFA sanctioned “nation team”. They would be pretty decent and would have better chance at competition and tournaments.

    • Except those nations think of themselves as distinct and different from each other and value their independent unique identities. If anything you could have the Caribbean form a separate and distinct confederation (CONCACAF keeps Jamaica and T&T), let those nations play to get like half a bid (or even 1 in the expanded field) and let North and central america do a COMBOL style qualifying campaign, combine the gold cup and Copa America to a 4 year tournament of 24 teams, and figure out a way to crown a COMBOL and CONCACAF champion for Confederation cup purposes.

      • I’ve often thought it would make sense for both the Caribbean nations and the rest of Concacaf if the Caribbean spit off from Concacaf and joined Oceania as a West Oceania division with the winner of East Oceania playing the winner of West Oceania for a guaranteed spot. If countries like Jamaica and TnT stayed with the new West Oceania setup they would greatly improve their odds to make the WC having to only beat most likely New Zealand in the playoff between the east and west divisions of Oceania.

    • So, I guess an NIT tournament next year will be the only opportunity to play top nations out of CONCACAF in a long period ahead. Why would US Soccer not take advantage of such a possibility? This is more of a benefit than a detriment, in my opinion.

  12. In the past 24 hours, people on SBI have complained about the possibility of a NIT-style tournament as a bad idea because “it’s just a cash grab” and countries would be sending their C teams. Guess what? This Nations League will be treated as a joke by the bigger Hex countries BUT it won’t generate any revenue because no one will be willing to attend and advertisers won’t pony up the money. It’s a double whammy.

    When do we ever get to play European countries, besides at the World Cup? Instead of expanding the soccer world, this is shrinking our soccer world just to “address the problem facing the region’s smaller, often Caribbean island nations who have found it hard to get regular competitive action.”

    Well played, US Soccer, well played…

    • I know right. Italy, Netherlands, Ghana, Greece, Turkey, Ivory Coast, hardly NIT level and could have made for some decent match ups. No where near intensity of WC but at least we could watch something. I think if it doesn’t happen next year FIFA is listening and would be open to it for the cash of course. More Europa League than NIT IMO. Italy, Netherlands, Ghana, USA, Greece, Turkey is hardly a bunch a losers. Sure they didn’t qualify but still high quality competition.

      • Left out, Ireland, Chile, Paraguay, Chezc Rep, Ukraine. Pretty decent sides that could easily make 4 groups of 4 or something like that.

  13. Awesome. Still more of the high-quality, well-played, professionally-officiated CONCACAF competition played before classy fans (and on highly playable pitches) that we all love so much.

    Great job,Sunil!

    • LOL, I know right, who is going to watch this? I mean I watch every MNT but for the typical or casual fan who is going to care about US v Grenada or US v Nicaragua. How does that help us get better playing weak competition with poor and biased refs on pitches that would pass for cow pasture. its great for the minnows but sucks for the US, Mex and CR.

      As the second confederation to go to this setup it forces the had of the remaining confederations now to form up too. If we hadn’t and the non UEFA confederations also hadn’t created their leagues we still could have arranged decent friendlies against quality teams from Conmebol, AFC and CAF. Bye bye international friendlies, bye bye playing Italy in Italy or Germany in Germany, or Brazil in Brazil. We’ll be doomed to playing near meaningless matches against Concacaf ad nausem. SHoOT Me NOW!!

      • That was the entire point of creating these Nations Leagues to begin with. It was to end international friendlies and make sure all games being played at the national team level mean something. On the whole I like this idea for CONCACAF as it will make more competitive in the long run BUT it will come to the detriment of Mexico, the US, and even Costa Rica.

      • We’re you reading? The nation’s will get divided up by sporting culture into different leagues. Which means the USA won’t play the minnows in their version of the league. More like Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Canada etc.

      • I think that just means for the first edition of the league the nations will be divided up into divisions (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and it’ll be based on the strength of the teams. I think they’ll decide this by saying teams that have gone to the Hex in the past number of years or who have made it past the group stage in Gold Cup play get first division status ( US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago). That’s already 8 teams right there and then the rest will be split up probably by where they land in the FIFA rankings. Then after that first season it’s promotion/relegation.

  14. Somebody tell me how to divide 41 evenly into 3 groups?

    Sounds like a great thing for teams eliminated from qualifying to participate in. sucks for Canada, Jamaica, down to the minnows to sit out years of games after getting eliminated, a tournament like this could be great substitute for later round qualifiers. Absolutely no reason for perennial hex teams to participate in this.


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