Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Oceania Changes World Cup Qualifying for 2010

The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) has decided to get rid of their traditional qualifying tournament in favor of a more traditional home and away group series. With Australia leaving the OFC for Asia next year, I'm not surprised to see this change happen. They were always the driving force behind the old tournament system.

For those who don't know, the OFC decided their World Cup spot in three stages. The first stage was composed of two groups of five competing in a tournament with the top 2 teams in each group advancing to the second stage. Both Australia and New Zealand got byes for the first stage. In the second stage they played in a tournament with the other four sides. The top two teams from this stage played each other in a home and away playoff. The winner of that playoff faced the fifth place South American side. Simple, right?

For 2010, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tahiti will join a sixth team (decided by an earlier tournament, you didn't think they would go cold turkey did you?) in a group home and away series. The winner of this group will become the Oceania Nationals Cup champions.

As champions, the winner will represent Oceania at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and in the inter-confederation World Cup playoff. By the way, they plan on having a champion by April 1, 2009, giving the champion about 8 months to prepare for the playoff.

Talking about the playoff, there is a push from Asia and many teams in the OFC to change things up. The two confederations would rather face each other then either of the Americas. If these two did end of meeting in a playoff, then CONCACAF would play against South America. This change makes a lot of sense. Why have teams flying halfway across the world to play on another when they could have a more local affair. That would allow more fans the opportunity to see the game and build better local rivalries. I hope FIFA gives this idea a good once over.

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