Exclusive - CONCACAF close to agreeing new 'League of Nations'

LONDON (Reuters) - Plans for a new league competition for national teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean are set to be agreed on this weekend, the region’s football chief has told Reuters.

CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani attends a news conference at the Guatemala Soccer Federation in Guatemala City, Guatemala, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Martinez

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani has been privately sounding out the 41 federations within the region regarding the ‘League of Nations’ plan, which would effectively eliminate friendlies.

Saturday’s CONCACAF congress in Aruba will finalise the structure of the competition, which will include regional powerhouses the United States and Mexico.

The idea is similar to UEFA’s plan for a Nations League in Europe, which will replace friendly games and is due to start in September, 2018.

“There has been overwhelming acceptance that it is a great idea and the way we need to go. There are a few formats that we have looked at and we have had various members coming back with ideas. We have a format that we have landed on and we will show it to our members first,” Montagliani said in a telephone interview.

The Canadian said once that format had been agreed on then the organisation would look to bring in sponsors and broadcast partners.

“We need to look at what needs to happen in the next little bit for us to be able to monetise this and execute it in a timely fashion,” he said.

“From a football and technical side for me it is a no-brainer, but now the next evolution is the business side of it. But at the congress we want to finalise the technical side of it.”

The new UEFA league means that top teams in CONCACAF will have little or no opportunities for friendly games against European opposition.

“What people need to realise is that the world of friendlies is going to change, with Europe changing to the Nations League, it is going to get harder to get friendlies,” said Montagliani who believes that will be no great loss.

“The truth of the matter is that a lot of the friendlies our nations play, including the bigger nations, are a waste of time, let’s be honest, a lot of them are not quality. You are better off playing a game that actually means something (even) against an opponent, that on paper anyway, may not be as good,” he said.

CONCACAF is expected to have a three-nation bid to host the 2026 World Cup, involving Mexico, Canada and the United States, and the expansion of that tournament to 48 teams means the region will get six automatic slots in the finals.

Montagliani believes his plan will allow some of the smaller nations in the region to become more competitive.

“We need to develop our own competition in our region to make everybody better and then you need to do it at club level as well to raise the standards of our professional leagues and the clubs in them. This is the only way that our countries will get better -- it’s not about playing friendlies against England,” he said.

Montagliani said all nations in the region, including the U.S. and Mexico, would have to play in the competition.

“Once this is an official competition it is not like you will have a choice to opt-out,” he said.

Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis