- Jason Davis

Per the wire services, CONCACAF submitted their planned 2014 qualifying structure to FIFA this week. The plan includes the final round hexagonal - the format used since 1998 - in place of the two group format proposed last year. FIFA's decision to leave CONCACAF's World Cup spot allocation unchanged at 3.5 places forced the confederation's hand. Without an increase in spots to four, guaranteeing that the top two finishers in each group would qualify for Brazil 2014, the new structure was unwieldy.

The move was foreshadowed by Chuck Blazer's comments after FIFA made their decision on World Cup spots two weeks ago.

The proposed format effectively eliminated the possibility US and Mexico would face each other in qualifying on the road to Brazil. With the Hexagonal remaining in place, no matter what the preliminary round structure looks like, it appears the rivalry will remain in place.

This is excellent news from an American perspective. Without the challenge of Mexico in the qualifying phrase, particularly in the hostile environs of Estadio Azteca, there's a very real chance of complacency infecting the US campaign. Further, the continuation of the trip to Mexico gives the USMNT an opportunity to make history and bring attention to the program by doing so. There are no guarantees the Americans will ever win in Mexico City, but as long as the format provides for a match there, it remains possible. A landmark win remains a symbolically important goal.

This news is good for the US and Mexico, but might not be as rosy for some of CONCACAF's lesser lights. I'm on the lookout for a fuller explanation of the format submitted.


Thanks to Jose in the comments, we have a better idea of what the format will look like - it's not just the 2010 format, repeated. This info comes from a Fernando Schwartz story at ESPNDeportes.com.

1) Top 6 teams (Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Cuba) get a bye until the Semifinal round.

2) The bottom 10 countries will participate in two-legged knockout ties, with five nations progressing.

3) These five will join the 7th to 25th ranked countries in CONCACAF for a First Group Stage of 6 groups with 4 teams each. These will take place over the second half of 2011. From these groups, only the group winner will qualify to the next round.

4) The six group winners will join the six top teams and make up the semifinal round, where nations will compete in three groups of four.

5) Group winner and runner-up qualify for the Hexagonal. Top three in the Hexagonal standings qualify for the World Cup, with the four place nation moving on to the intercontinental playoffs.

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