Soccer-CONCACAF teams must raise level before 2026 World Cup, says Ochoa

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group C - Saudi Arabia v Mexico - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - December 1, 2022 Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa looks dejected after the match as Mexico are eliminated from the World Cup REUTERS/Molly Darlington

(Reuters) - Players in the CONCACAF region must gain valuable experience in Europe and national teams need meaningful competition to raise their game before the 2026 World Cup hosted by Mexico, United States and Canada, Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said.

With all three nations set to compete in the tournament as co-hosts, Ochoa called for an action plan that includes teams in the region getting more opportunities to compete in different continental competitions.

"I hope we can get to go to the Asian Cup, Copa America, not just play friendlies in the United States. That's not going to benefit us," Ochoa told ESPN.

"There are things to build and add, there are talented people who have to push and go to Europe."

The confederations of Asia, Africa, South America and Europe had at least two teams in the last 16 of the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, while CONCACAF had only one -- the United States -- who were eliminated by the Netherlands.

Ochoa's views were echoed by Paris St Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas of Costa Rica, who went on to stress players had to compete in major European leagues at a young age.

"Hopefully all the youngsters can compete at a high level every Sunday and not just in a World Cup," Navas said.

(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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