CONCACAF'S big schedule reveal, Ream's big win, Soto on the move, and more
July 27, 2020
CONCACAF FINALLY unveiled its new World Cup qualifying roster for 2022 and it is surprisingly not bad considering the complications of playing international soccer these days. Elsewhere, Tim Ream and Fulham come up big, Ian Hoffmann will start his pro career under Tab Ramos and Sebastian Soto is close to his first loan
It was a busy news day in soccer. MLS rolls on in Orlando and we will look at the Round of 16 games tomorrow. For now, here is a look at the other stories in American soccer outside of Orlando.
CONCACAF sets agenda
Before today’s announcement, we knew a bunch of things already. We knew that the Hex format was probably going to be scrapped and that the U.S. team probably wouldn’t start until 2021. We also knew that the next two years could see additional international windows to help make up for lost time.
CONCACAF’s now has set its schedule for the three upcoming tournaments: World Cup qualifying, The Gold Cup, and the Nation’s League.
The final round of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying will no longer have six teams. It will have eight and five of the teams are already decided.
- The United States
- Costa Rica
- Three teams from an upcoming early round
In total, the region will have three and a half berths for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Each team will play 14 games of the final stage and they will be played during the following windows.
- June, 2021 - Double
- September, 2021
- October, 2021
- November, 2021
- January, 2022
- March, 2022
In addition, the Gold Cup will be played from July 10 through August 1 in 2021 and the 2023 tournament is also on the Calendar.
The CONCACAF Nation’s League will hold its first ever semifinal and final in March 2021 and then take place again with the group stages in May, June, and September of 2022 before the World Cup. The finals and quarterfinals will then be played in March 2023.
As of now, CONCACAF has not announced the rescheduling of the U-23 Olympic qualifiers or the 2021 U-20 World Cup qualifiers.
That is a lot of CONCACAF soccer and the Nation’s League remains an unconvincing tournament to generate meaning and excitement. With Gold Cups during every four-year cycle and now two Nations League tournaments, plus an Octagon round of World Cup qualifying, how many champions of this region does there need to be?
After 2020, literally every international window through the summer of 2023 is loaded with official CONCACAF events.
As for World Cup qualifying, the new format makes the best out of a bad situation. The worst scenario that the region was toying with was avoided. That would have been similar to European and African formats where there are several groups and teams must win the groups to qualifying. Those type of formats typically favor the underdogs and typically more importance is given towards the draw.
Over a shorter span, anything can happen. But over more games, teams tend to find their level. With the U.S team playing in a format with 14 games, it bodes well.
Ream and Fulham shine
Fulham’s quest to return to the Premier League must go through the playoffs after it failed to qualify for promotion automatically.
With a fourth-place finish it was matched up against Cardiff City in the semifinals and the first leg took place on Monday in Cardiff. Fulham were brilliant in the away leg cruising to a 2-0 away win (away goals do not count in the promotional playoffs in England). It was a methodical display that gives the team an enormous advantage heading into Thursday’s second leg.
Tim Ream, 32, continues to be an excellent player in the Championship where he’s played most of his career. He’s already been the player of the season for his club three times, including in 2017/18 where he led Fulham to promotion in the playoff.
In this game, Ream was steady and generally mistake free. The two free kick goals will generate most of the attention but Ream was a rock in the back.
Tim Ream: raw # in 2-0 win vs Cardiff in promotional playoff— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) July 27, 2020
0 key passes
87.3% passing 69/79
5 aerials won
0 blcked shots
2/5 accurate long balls pic.twitter.com/6gYfQH6mhQ
Barring a disaster, Ream is looking likely to play in another promotional playoff final. If Fulham advance, it will face the winner of Swansea and Brentford with Swansea winning leg one at home 1-0 on Sunday.
Soto to Telstar?
Sebastian Soto, 20, recently left Hannover after two seasons where he did not make much of a first-team impact and spent most of last season on the bench after refusing to sign a new contract with the 2.Bundesliga club.
Soto instead joined Norwich City, although that deal has not been announced. Norwich was recently relegated out of the Premier League. The problem is that Soto does not qualify for a U.K. Work Permit yet. The result is that he will now have to go on loan for the upcoming season and hope he qualifies again next season.
This upcoming loan will be key for Soto since he is essentially coming off a lost season with Hannover. After some speculation, it looks like this loan will run through Telstar of the second-tier Dutch Eerste Divisie. Last season Telstar finished 10th out of 20 teams. It is the same club where Andrija Novakovich spent on loan in 2017/18 while under contract at Reading.
Overall, this is an appropriate step for Soto has never scored against adult opponents. He has only scored at the U-19 Bundesliga level and before that, the Development Academy. This step should give Soto a nice opportunity to perform but the pressure will be on him to do so. Failure at this level will make obtaining his U.K. work permit much harder and it will make Norwich less convinced Soto is ready to help them.
Success will put Soto back on track with his career and prove he can transition effectively to the adult level. But he really can’t afford to have this loan to fail.
Hoffmann signs with Houston
The Houston Dynamo made a significant step withing bringing in younger players when they signed U.S. U-20 midfielder/defender and Connecticut native Ian Hoffmann, 18, who was previously at Karlsruher in Germany.
This is a nice step for Tab Ramos who probably wants to take his Dynamo team in a more youthful direction after building up a solid reputation after coaching the U.S. U-20 team. While Ian Hoffmann is not from the Dynamo academy, if he gets on the field with the Dynamo, it will send a positive signal to young players that the Dynamo has its doors open to youth.
Ramos is well familiar with Hoffmann having coached him with the U-20 team and when Ramos filled in with the U-18 team in 2019. Ramos was also the federation’s youth technical director when Hoffmann was progressing through U.S. youth national teams. Where Hoffmann made his most progress with the United States was when he played for the U-18 team under Omid Namazi – who is currently the assistant coach under Ramos.
???????????????????????? ??— Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) July 27, 2020
Ian Hoffmann joins the club#HoldItDown
This is a good move for Hoffmann who will get to play under coaches who are familiar with him and who believe in him. That is often a challenge for players when looking where to start their professional careers.
The big thing will be determining which position Hoffmann will settle into. A very versatile player, Hoffmann can play right back, outside midfield, or central midfield. But where will he find a need on the Dynamo?
Hoffmann will play with the Dynamo’s USL affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, until the end of 2020. Next season he will join the Dynamo.
Arriola remains with DC United
Paul Arriola is currently sidelined while he is recovering from ACL surgery but the U.S. international signed a new deal with DC United that will keep him with the club through the 2023 season. While Arriola is likely happy playing with United, he probably had little choice due to the nature of his injury and the uncertainty of the global market due to COVID-19. The Californian will remain a designated player.
It is good news for DC United who were bounced early from the tournament in Orlando but should be able to return to a more normal schedule in 2021 where it will be able to depend on Arriola – who is one of the best defensive wingers in MLS and in the U.S. player pool.