The landscape of friendlies could be changing dramatically for the United States men’s national team in the next World Cup cycle. According to Reuters, CONCACAF are close to agreeing to a new ‘League of Nations’ competition for national teams in the North and Central America and the Caribbean regions. The idea is set to be agreed upon this weekend at the CONCACAF congress in Aruba.
Assuming this plan comes to fruition, it would effectively eliminate the vast majority of friendly dates between the U.S. and other federations such as UEFA, CONMEBOL, and AFC. This competition would not be the first of its kind and is likely a reaction to the UEFA Nations League, a similar idea that Europe will put into effect 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," CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani told Reuters.
The idea seems to be just a formality to be accepted by CONCACAF at this point with the next step being finding sponsors and TV rights being bid on.
"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."
From a USMNT perspective, this seems like a giant step back in terms of competition. Playing more matches against CONCACAF will not help them prepare for matches on the biggest stage like the World Cup. Gone would be the days of going to Europe and playing the likes of Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands, all of whom the U.S. have beaten in the last five years away from home.
"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.
It remains to be seen if friendlies would be eliminated entirely, but this new competition would at least drastically reduce competitive matches U.S. Soccer could set up for themselves in the future.