WASHINGTON -- US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann would be happy if CONCACAF found a way to change its international schedule.
But perhaps not in the way confederation president Victor Montagliani is thinking.
Speaking at training Monday before Tuesday’s friendly against New Zealand at RFK Stadium (8 pm ET, ESPN, UniMás), Klinsmann said the biggest problem plaguing CONCACAF nations is a lack of competitive matches against higher-quality opponents outside the federation.
That runs counter to recent comments Montagliani made to the Associated Press, saying the federation needs to abandon a format that eliminates most member nations almost two years before the World Cup Finals.
“Our lesson from Copa America is if we want to get our program better, we have to play with the best,” Klinsmann said. “In order to break into the top 15, top 10 in the world, we need to challenge ourselves to play them. And the more often we play Argentina, the better our results will get because the less fear we have or respect we have.
“What does that mean?” Klinsmann continued. “For us it means, it would be the opposite direction.”
Klinsmann reiterated his desire for a regular Copa America that combined the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL federations, even if it jeopardizes CONCACAF's regional championship, the Gold Cup, which is currently held every two years. The Copa America, South America's regional championship, takes place every four years, aside from a special edition earlier this year that featured teams from both confederations and was hosted in the United States.
“If we can have every two years a Copa America, then we need to let the Gold Cup go,” Klinsmann said. “So it’s pretty much the opposite.”
In defense of his suggestion, Klinsmann pointed to the situation Tuesday’s opponents find themselves in.
“New Zealand, they are in Oceania and they [are the] only team really, because Australia left and joined [the Asian confederation]” after the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann pointed out.
“I’m not saying we need to join UEFA or we need to join CONMEBOL, but for us, the general topic is we need to get the best games to improve our players, so that they see what is really played. And it makes it more and more difficult.”
With the US playing fellow CONCACAF power Mexico on Nov. 11 in Columbus to open the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying, Klinsmann explained the quest to find high quality opponents for friendlies is hampered by the schedule in other confederations.
“CONMEBOL is fully scheduled and UEFA is fully scheduled,” Klinsmann said. “Ghana wasn’t allowed to come because they play one game in Europe and they’re not allowed to play a second game in another continent. We go the list up and down. Believe me, we’re trying to get the best opponents as possible.”