LONDON (AP):World Cup qualifying in North America is set to be overhauled to avoid shutting out the majority of countries in the CONCACAF region so early.CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani has instigated a review of an “archaic” format that leaves only six out of the region’s 35 teams still in with a shot at qualifying for Russia in 2018.Alongside a potential new name to replace the corruption-tainted CONCACAF brand, revamping the qualifying format to be more inclusive has emerged as a key objective for Montagliani after five months in charge of the confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean.”Something needs to change because you can’t have 85 percent of your members who are on the outside looking in two years before the World Cup,” Montagliani told The Associated Press. “It doesn’t make sense.”Since qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, CONCACAF has used a system where teams play home and away in early rounds. Once 12 nations are remaining, there are three groups of four, which produces six teams for a final round.The United States, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago are the last teams standing, chasing three of CONCACAF’s automatic qualification places. Starting next month, they play each other twice in a league.”It’s great for those six teams over the next year and a bit, but how about the other ones?” Montagliani said. “It’s hard.”Hard for players to raise their standard and hard for teams to generate revenue to fund soccer development.CLIMBING THE RANKINGS”Caribbean countries have problems climbing the FIFA rankings, just because we are not able to play as many international games as you want to,” John Krishnadath, president of the Suriname soccer federation, told the AP earlier this year, while also highlighting the high cost of travelling to matches.Suriname’s World Cup journey ended in June 2015 immediately after entering in the second round of CONCACAF qualifying. The first seven CONCACAF teams were eliminated back in March 2015. It’s so long ago that Montagliani is the third president CONCACAF has had during qualifying for the 2018 tournament.Former CONCACAF head Jeffrey Webb was first arrested as part of the sprawling American investigation into corruption in May 2015 and his temporary replacement, Alfredo Hawit, was indicted seven months later. Montagliani said CONCACAF competitions and the interests of teams were neglected in an era when the leadership was motivated by corruptly extorting money from the confederation and its commercial backers.Discussing a new configuration, Montagliani said: “Maybe it’s like the Europeans or maybe it’s like the South Americans with a league – or it’s a hybrid of the two.”In Europe, countries are split into nine groups, balanced according to their rankings, and play games from September 2016 to October 2017. The group winners qualify automatically and the eight best runners-up will contest play-offs for the remaining four UEFA spots in Russia.In South America, the 10 CONMEBOL members are in a two-year league that started in October 2015. The top four have guaranteed World Cup places and the fifth-place team has to go through a play-off against a country from Oceania.
Lou Macari has told talkSPORT Wayne Rooney is far from ‘finished’ at Manchester United.The United captain has come in for heavy criticism having struggled to make a major impact in an advanced striking role in three successive games.Some fans are of the opinion that Rooney is past his best and can longer be a force at the top level, but Macari disagrees and insists it is only a matter of time before the 29-year-old starts firing again and silences the doubters.Speaking on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, the Red Devils legend said: “If you are a top player and you are not delivering every week people are ready to criticise and they have been quick to criticise this season.“It is a little bit unfair because at this stage of the season all the players that come back for pre-season are in different shape. Some are ready to go because that’s the way they are and the way their bodies are made.“Some take a few games to get going because they may have put on a few pounds over the summer and I’d probably put Wayne in that category.“I’ve read that he is finished and this and that and that is absolutely ridiculous. He will be back.“Confidence is a big thing. When he gets a couple of goals his confidence will come back and we will see the player we have seen season after season at Manchester United.”
House GOP Seeks To Change Medicare Doctor Payment Formula The chairmen of the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees want a permanent change to the current system that repeatedly threatens to cut doctor payments unless Congress steps in.Medpage Today: Bill Near To Repeal SGR?House Republicans are launching a renewed effort to repeal Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) reimbursement formula, reaching out to Democrats and the medical community in favor of replacing yearly “fixes” with a permanent change in the system. Repealing and replacing the SGR is a priority for the law’s two authorizing committees in the House — the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, an Energy and Commerce aide said Thursday. In a sign of how important this issue is, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommitee’s first hearing this year will be on the SGR. It’s slated for Feb. 14, although a witness list hasn’t yet been finalized (Pittman, 2/7).Meanwhile, a hospice in San Diego faces financial difficulties after Medicare officials questioned whether it was adhering to their rules. Kaiser Health News: San Diego Hospice Files For BankruptcyHobbled by a federal investigation into its practice of treating patients who had more than six months left to live, one of the biggest hospices in the country has filed for bankruptcy as it tries to continue operating. A local hospital chain is heeding San Diego Hospice’s plea for help, however, and promising to provide services for as many patients as need it (Dotinga, 2/7). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.