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WEEKLY WHINE

How to reset the international calendar

Once again, it falls to GoobNet to fix everything.

You are no doubt wondering what exactly GoobNet needs to fix. The answer, as usual, is something that FIFA has done, in particular the men’s international football calendar. This is a list of dates that FIFA reserves for men’s international football matches; an international match must be played on one of these dates in order to force clubs to release players for their national teams.

There are two problems with the international calendar: there are not enough international match dates for the competitions that need them, and they are not being used efficiently. For an example of the inefficient use of international dates, observe the CONCACAF Men’s Gold Cup held last month. Why could it not be held during another confederation’s tournament? After all, nobody can play in two confederations’ championships. It would make far more sense for clubs to release all of their international players at a time, regardless of which confederations their respective national teams are members of.

Therefore, we asked our GoobNet Special Projects Enhancement and Enforcement Division [SPEED] to come up with a way to improve the men’s international calendar. They went away and then came back. In between those two things, they had actually come up with a way to improve the international calendar. So good for them.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

We were able to identify a perfect solution, but it depends on the following things to make it work:

  • The Men’s World Cup uses the qualifying format that we recently proposed.
  • All confederations hold their championships at the same time, in June of years that are multiples of four. UEFA already holds the Men’s European Championship at this time. Note that we will permit some exceptions, to be discussed below.

THE CYCLE

The GoobNet International Timetable and Schedule for Advancing World Football and Unifying Leagues comes in cycles of two years. Each cycle ends with the months of June and July in an even year, during which time the major men’s international tournaments are played. In a year that is a multiple of four, the confederation championships, such as the Men’s European Championship, the Copa América, and the Men’s African Nations Cup, are held. In a year that is two greater than a multiple of four, the Men’s World Cup is held, consistent with current practise.

In the two years prior to these tournaments, there are a number of international dates intended for the qualifiers for these tournaments. Our Men’s World Cup qualifying tournament requires twenty matchdays. Therefore, we have selected twenty dates as follows:

  • Two in even September
  • Two in even October
  • Two in even November
  • Two in odd February
  • Two in odd March
  • Four in odd June
  • Two in odd September
  • Two in odd October
  • Two in odd November

We have also included ten friendly dates as follows:

  • One in even August
  • One in odd January
  • Two in odd May-June
  • One in odd August
  • One in even January
  • Two in even February
  • Two in even March

Perhaps most importantly, our proposed calendar marks the long awaited return of international matches to Saturdays and Wednesdays. Friday is not the weekend.

CONFEDERATION CHAMPIONSHIPS

The confederation championships have up to twenty dates available for their respective qualifiers.

UEFA Men’s European Championship

The qualifiers for the men’s Euro can be held as normal, with a group phase followed by playoffs for the second placed teams. The tournament is expanding to 24 teams starting with Euro 2016, and the new qualifying format has not yet been decided.

This calendar supports adding a second group phase as has been proposed. For example, there could be a preliminary group phase with the 33 lowest ranked UEFA teams, divided into eleven groups of three. The second group phase could be made up of the top two teams in each preliminary group plus the twenty byed teams, drawn into seven groups of six teams each. The top three teams in each group would qualify automatically, and the fourth placed teams would enter playoffs to decide the last two places.

Copa América

The Copa América was long held in every odd year, but it is now held in years that are one less than a multiple of four – a year after the Men’s World Cup.

Though we propose holding it once every four years, there is also the possibility of holding it every two years, because it requires no qualifiers. If so, it would again be held in odd years. Either way, it would disrupt the recent tradition of guest invitees; Mexico, for instance, could not compete if it was held at the same time as the Men’s Gold Cup, nor if it was held at the same time as Mexico’s Men’s World Cup qualifiers.

If the Copa América is indeed held in odd years, our calendar could support that by moving the four June dates for the Men’s World Cup qualifiers one year earlier. The CONMEBOL qualifying tournament would therefore begin at the same time as the other confederations’ tournaments.

CAF Men’s African Nations Cup

The Men’s African Nations Cup is held in odd years as of 2013. Under our plan, it would move to June and July of years that are multiples of four. Admittedly, this is during the rainy season of much of west and central Africa, but these nations already play matches, including Men’s World Cup qualifiers, during this time anyway. So we believe this is not a showstopping issue.

Qualifiers for Men’s African Nations Cups held in Men’s World Cup years sometimes serve as Men’s World Cup qualifiers as well, a procedure that is no longer needed.

AFC Men’s Asian Cup

The Men’s Asian Cup is held every four years, in the same years as the Copa América. Moving it to Men’s European Championship years means that the qualifiers do not need to be held concurrently with the Men’s World Cup qualifiers.

Normally, a few of the top Asian teams qualify automatically, and the remaining qualifiers are decided in a group phase. Our proposed calendar supports this procedure, or even two group phases as discussed for the Men’s European Championship above.

CONCACAF Men’s Gold Cup

The Men’s Gold Cup is held in odd years as of 2003. Moving it to multiples of four avoids conflict with the final round of Men’s World Cup qualifiers: observe this year, in which most of the teams competing in both omitted many key players from their Men’s Gold Cup rosters.

Currently, the North American nations of CONCACAF – Canada, the United States, and Mexico – qualify automatically, and the other places are awarded in the Caribbean and Central American tournaments. Our calendar supports either this procedure or a standard qualifying procedure similar to those held by UEFA or CAF.

Men’s OFC Nations Cup

In recent years, the Men’s OFC Nations Cup has been held concurrently with the Men’s World Cup qualifiers. Since we have proposed combining the AFC and OFC Men’s World Cup qualifiers, this approach is no longer feasible.

Since the OFC has only fourteen members, it could hold a tournament with all of them, which would require no qualifiers. This would permit holding it every two years, as with the Copa América. It could also expand the tournament to sixteen teams and invite two other island nations, such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Or it could continue to hold an eight team tournament, with qualifiers either as groups or as elimination matches. Alternatively, it could bring back the Polynesia and Melanesia Cups as qualifying tournaments. The possibilities are unlimited.

OTHER INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENTS

FIFA Confederations Cup

Our approach of moving all confederation championships to the same time makes things easier for the Confederations Cup, which occurs one year before the Men’s World Cup. The champions of each tournament would qualify for the following year’s Confederations Cup. If the Copa América returns to every two years, CONMEBOL could hold a playoff for the Confederations Cup as CONCACAF is planning to do for the Men’s Gold Cup champions.

Regional tournaments

There are a number of tournaments held by regional federations, such as the Copa Centroamericana for Central America, the ASEAN Football Championship for southeast Asia, and the COSAFA Cup for southern Africa. These tournaments could be held in June and July of odd years provided that the confederation’s schedule for other tournaments permits it. Indeed, if they are held the year before the confederation championship, they could be used as qualifiers for that tournament.

Second tier tournaments

Our proposal leaves no place for tournaments such as the AFC Challenge Cup and the CAF African Nations Championship. However, we recommend that FIFA and the confederations work together to find a time to hold these tournaments. For instance, the African Nations Championship could be held in January and February, when the Men’s African Nations Cup is currently held.

PROPOSED CALENDAR

Below is how our proposed calendar would look for the 2014-8 period.

01Friendly date
01Qualifier date
01Release period for international tournaments
01Confederation championships
01Men’s World Cup
AUG 2014
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
SEP 2014
MTWTFSS
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930     
OCT 2014
MTWTFSS
  0102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
NOV 2014
MTWTFSS
     0102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
DEC 2014
MTWTFSS
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
JAN 2015
MTWTFSS
   01020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 
FEB 2015
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
232425262728 
MAR 2015
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
APR 2015
MTWTFSS
  0102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   
MAY 2015
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
JUN 2015
MTWTFSS
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930     
JUL 2015
MTWTFSS
  0102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
AUG 2015
MTWTFSS
     0102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      
SEP 2015
MTWTFSS
 010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930    
OCT 2015
MTWTFSS
   01020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 
NOV 2015
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      
DEC 2015
MTWTFSS
 010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   
JAN 2016
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
FEB 2016
MTWTFSS
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29      
MAR 2016
MTWTFSS
 010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   
APR 2016
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 
MAY 2016
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
JUN 2016
MTWTFSS
  0102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   
JUL 2016
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
AUG 2016
MTWTFSS
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
SEP 2016
MTWTFSS
   01020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
OCT 2016
MTWTFSS
     0102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      
NOV 2016
MTWTFSS
 010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930    
DEC 2016
MTWTFSS
   01020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 
JAN 2017
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
FEB 2017
MTWTFSS
  0102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728     
MAR 2017
MTWTFSS
  0102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
APR 2017
MTWTFSS
     0102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
MAY 2017
MTWTFSS
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
JUN 2017
MTWTFSS
   01020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
JUL 2017
MTWTFSS
     0102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      
AUG 2017
MTWTFSS
 010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   
SEP 2017
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 
OCT 2017
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
NOV 2017
MTWTFSS
  0102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   
DEC 2017
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
JAN 2018
MTWTFSS
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
FEB 2018
MTWTFSS
   01020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728    
MAR 2018
MTWTFSS
   01020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 
APR 2018
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      
MAY 2018
MTWTFSS
 010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   
JUN 2018
MTWTFSS
    010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 
JUL 2018
MTWTFSS
      01
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

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