Sporting Kansas City, Honduras midfielder Roger Espinoza hopes World Cup qualifying is Concacaf's top priority

Roger Espinoza - Sporting KC - October 28 2018

When Concacaf president Concacaf president and FIFA VP Victor Montagliani said that World Cup qualifying as currently constructed is "in peril" earlier this week, Sporting Kansas City and former Honduras midfielder Roger Espinoza took notice.

Espinoza, who retired from the national team in 2019 after representing his country at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, hopes Concacaf puts the World Cup qualifying at the top of their list of priorities once soccer resumes following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"That's something I try to pay attention to," Espinoza told reporters on a video conference call. "At the end of the day, if you don't get back to club soccer then it's very difficult to think about national team. You have to get those guys going at the club teams first, then the World Cup will come next. It's going to be difficult."

Concacaf qualifying for the 2022 World Cup was supposed to get underway in September in the new format, which sees the region's top six ranked teams go straight to the Hexagonal round as the rest play a tournament, including a group stage and knockout round, to determine a playoff place against the fourth-place finisher in the Hex.

As the missed time starts to accrue, changes to the format may happen.

"You probably almost have to do a quick Round Robin [for qualifying] or something," Espinoza said. "Olympics are coming, then you have the Euros, Copa America, Gold Cup, Nations League and all that going on. Something is going to have to change, but we know the World Cup is the most important event in the world. It's definitely something I'm paying close attention to. It's going to be something that could be drastically changed for how we qualify."

Before international soccer can resume, club soccer continues to evaluate avenues to a safe return to play. One idea would be playing matches without fans initially to limit large gatherings. 

Espinoza and his SKC teammates would be glad to do that at first, to get MLS back and begin the steps of returning to normalcy.

"Health is first, if that what it takes to get our freedom back and we have to start in small steps, then that's okay," Espinoza said. "Me and my teammates are waiting to see what the league and organization says, but I think the majority of guys would be okay with that. If that's the case, then okay, we're ready for whatever comes."