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CONCACAF aims to replace friendlies with new nations league competition

CONCACAF is finalizing plans for a new competition among its national teams, including the U.S. and Mexico, to replace international friendlies, according to FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani.

In an interview with Reuters, Montagliani, who is also the president of CONCACAF -- which governs the sport in North and Central America and the Caribbean -- and the Canadian Soccer Association, confirmed the so-called "nations league" format would effectively eliminate friendly matches even for the region's powerhouses.

The idea is similar to the one adopted by European confederation UEFA, which will introduce its Nations League in 2018. Those matches would occur during FIFA windows normally set aside for friendlies.

The CONCACAF measure will be a boon for the region's smaller countries, particularly ones who have little hope of participating in a World Cup.

Montagliani has been "privately sounding out the 41 federations" within CONCACAF about the proposed format, Reuters reported, and there will be enough support to officially adopt the new competition when the body's congress meets in Aruba on Saturday.

"There has been overwhelming acceptance that it is a great idea and the way we need to go," Montagliani said. "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."

But CONCACAF could receive pushback from regular World Cup participants Mexico, the U.S. and Costa Rica, who could now be forced to play regional minnows rather than friendlies against elite teams from other continents.

CONCACAF wants its member countries to give up friendlies to play regional teams in a new league format.

The U.S. national team has played friendlies against global juggernauts such as Brazil, Germany and Netherlands since the last World Cup ended in 2014. But the landscape is changing on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

"With Europe changing to the Nations League, it is going to get harder to get friendlies," Montagliani said.

He believes that may be a blessing in disguise for CONCACAF's bigger teams -- which would be obligated to participate -- while also helping its smaller nations improve.

"The truth of the matter is that a lot of the friendlies our nations play, including the bigger nations, are a waste of time," Montagliani said. "Let's be honest: A lot of them are not quality. You are better off playing a game that actually means something against an opponent, that on paper anyway, may not be as good.

"We need to develop our own competition in our region to make everybody better," he continued. "And then you need to do it at club level as well, to raise the standards of our professional leagues and the clubs in them.

"This is the only way that our countries will get better. It's not about playing friendlies against England."

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

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