The 2018 MLS campaign is underway and as you can see on this very website by the league tables wonderfully maintained by Mr. Tyler Webster, New York City FC and Los Angeles FC have made superb starts.
Later in this season, starting in September, the CONCACAF Nations League will begin with the confederation hailing the new tournament as “a new era of national team football” for the region.
In September the competition begins with a one-off qualifying phase, which will be followed by a group phase next year. The final ambition is to crown the Nations League Champions and contains the added bonus of the qualifying path for the newly expanded Gold Cup. Our very own Rundown has covered the expansion of the Gold Cup here.
The competition proper will take place in the FIFA designated match windows in September, October and November of 2019, with a championship final to be played in March 2020. Participating nations will compete in a home-and-away, round-robin format over the course of the group phase. Nations League scheduling will be centralized in what CONCACAF calls a “fan-friendly, evenly-distributed ‘week of football’ format,” with staggered kick-off times on each day of the match window to allow for viewing of multiple games across the region.
“The launch of the Concacaf Nations League, conceived over the last two years and guided by the ‘ONE CONCACAF’ principles of unity and access for our region’s football, is the defining moment marking the completion of our transition into a new era for our 41-member CONCACAF family,” In a press release, confederation president Victor Montagliani highlighted the ‘Unity, Football, Quality, Access’ message which has been pushed across social media channels. “The Nations League assures that all our members will have the opportunity to play more and compete more, which in turn will propel greater development of the sport at every level.”
Getting down to brass tacks, the leagues will be split into A, B and C. League A will consist of four groups of three teams, the winners of each group will qualify for the ‘Final Championship’, which will determine the Nations League Champion. The teams at the bottom of each League A group will be relegated to League B for the next edition of the tournament. League B will contain four groups of four teams. The winner of each League B group will be promoted to League A, and the bottom team of each League B group will be relegated to League C for the next edition. League C will consist of the remaining member associations divided into four groups. The winner of each League C group will be promoted to League B.
By virtue of having qualified for the Hexagonal Round of the 2018 World Cup qualifying process, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, the United States and Trinidad & Tobago have earned the right to be seeded directly into League A, and therefore will not participate in the initial Nations League qualifying.
Having already had a suspension imposed by FIFA, Guatemala will be barred from participating in CONACAF Nations League qualifying.
The results of those qualifying games will be compiled into an aggregate table, ranking the participating teams 1-34 based on points earned, goal difference and a series of additional tiebreakers. The table will be used to divide teams into Leagues A, B and C for the first full edition of the Nations League.
The top six teams from the aggregate table will join the aforementioned six Hexagonal participants in League A, the next 16 teams will qualify for League B, and the remaining teams will be assigned to League C.
The teams who achieved the top 10 positions in the Nations League qualifying final table will also join the six Hexagonal participants in the 2019 Gold Cup.