FIFA vice-president on 2026 World Cup group format, CanMNT, USMNT in Copa America
Our Kristian Jack speaks with Concacaf president and FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani, touching on a number of key issues and developments surrounding the World Cup, the region, and the next four years.
CanMNT, USMNT in Copa America?
Since Canada, the United States and Mexico are all co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the road from today to 2026 is far less treacherous, as all three teams automatically qualify for the tournament.
As such, these three Concacaf giants will be without meaningful competition outside of the 2023 Gold Cup and Concacaf Nations League, without a World Cup Qualifying journey to undergo.
To that end, rumours have begun to emerge about a potential joint-venture between Concacaf and CONMEBOL for the 2024 Copa America, a tournament that traditionally invites guest nations to participate.
Could we see Canada, the United States or Mexico participate in the 2024 Copa America?
"There's a lot of speculation around tournaments of that nature, and all I have to say is that it is speculation," Montagliani answered. "We are always discussing these matters with all confederations, but there is a bit of misinformation about some of these tournaments. It's really not in the jurisdiction of a federation or a league to have those discussions. Those discussions are held by the confederations, between confederations. Copa America belongs to CONMEBOL and my partner, Alejandro Dominguez. That's where the discussion happens.
"We will have those discussions – we've had them, we'll continue to have them – to see how we can better our own competitions, and maybe create some new ones. We will probably have some sort of announcements on any of this in that early 2023 stage. We understand how important it is to have these competitions.
"We're also discussing with FIFA about a test event, similar to what we had here (in Qatar) with the Arab Cup. Those are all things that will help, not just our host nations, but all our nations in Concacaf."
3-team group format for 2026 World Cup?
One of the great joys of the 2024 FIFA World Cup has been in the drama of giant-slaying in the group stage. But, with a 48-team tournament set for 2026, much of that initial stage will be muted, as the usual eight groups of four would be replaced by much easier groups of three.
Has FIFA reconsidered this approach after another successful showing of the previous format in Qatar?
"Any format, any competition, the host has the right to change it," Montagliani offered. "Concacaf, we have the right to change our Gold Cup or Nations League format, FIFA, it's the same. They have the right to change it. I think there's been enough discussion to know that there's probably a need to have a look at it, even amongst my peers, about how this looks like, and how it still fits in the calendar.
"We can't have a two-month World Cup. It needs to be in that 35-day window. There are some options. That's a review we'll have in earnest once we finish this World Cup, and all those concerns will be put on the table. If there is a better format, then it behooves us to do it, not only for the spirit of the competition, but for the sport."
Reactions to Canada's World Cup
Montagliani's Concacaf region saw four teams compete for the World Cup, with the United States advancing out of their group before bowing out to the Netherlands in the Round of 16, and Costa Rica, Mexico and Montagliani's home nation Canada being eliminated in the group stage.
In particular, Montagliani believes the Canadian men's team learned key lessons in their first return to the tournament in 36 years.
"It's the great quote by Mike Tyson: 'Everybody has a plan until you get smashed in the face, and Canada got smashed in the face.'
"They played really well against Belgium, started off well against Croatia, and then the quality of players – especially against Croatia – came to the forefront. Even Morocco, I thought, especially in the second half, we applied ourselves, but from an association standpoint? They didn't know what they don't know – and now they know. That bodes well."