- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

MEXICO CITY (AP) - It’s the soccer job synonymous with wrongdoing, and it’s up for grabs again.

The past three permanent presidents of the North and Central American and Caribbean confederation have been forced out of the job under a cloud of misconduct.

And CONCACAF is preparing to elect its fourth president in five years on Thursday with the governing body still fighting to regain both the trust of soccer and funds that it is owed by FIFA.

In one of the tightest contests to run the 41-member confederation, Victor Montagliani, a Canadian working in insurance, is taking on Larry Mussenden, Bermuda’s director of public prosecutions.

“They seem to be coming out of a clean closet,” CONCACAF Vice President Horace Burrell said Wednesday, assessing the election rivals.

Both Montagliani and Mussenden, who are presidents of their domestic soccer federations, are pledging to put CONCACAF back in the spotlight for footballing reasons rather than criminal investigations.

“The man on the street is talking corruption in football,” Mussenden said Wednesday. “The man in the street should be talking about who is winning and … we have to turn the corner and do all the right things to regain the trust.”

The new president will have the job of presiding over the Copa America Centenario in the United States next month.

“It’s time for us to come together as a confederation,” Montagliani said. “I think we can have a bold new era.”

But with criminal trials and sentencing hearings looming, CONCACAF could struggle to shake off its tainted past quickly.

Jack Warner held the position from 1990 until May 2011, when he was suspended by FIFA during a bribery investigation before quitting. Then American prosecutors pursued Warner, charging him last year with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. He is fighting extradition from his native Trinidad and Tobago.

Warner was succeeded in 2012 by Jeffrey Webb, but he was forced out of office when he also was indicted last May. He pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Alfredo Hawit replaced Webb, but the Honduran didn’t last long. He was arrested in December in a second wave of FIFA indictments and pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Mussenden is urging the soccer world to trust him, pointing to his background in policing, as a lawyer and as Bermuda’s attorney general.

“What happened has shaken the foundations of CONCACAF,” Mussenden said. “Law and order is part of my thing. I think that is a skillset I can bring to CONCACAF.”

The key to victory is sweeping up votes in the 23-nation Caribbean Football Union.

“I have more in common with more people in the Caribbean than some people in my own country, just because of football. It’s the underlying connection,” Montagliani said. “What has really resonated with them is an educational piece: We are going to invest in them. It’s not just about sheer money, just investment.”

But Mussenden believes he has more in common with many voters, given Bermuda has a population of only 64,000.

“I come from a small island country, and Victor comes from a huge country, Canada, so therefore we probably look at things slightly differently,” Mussenden said. “There are a number of countries in CONCACAF that are small island countries, and I share the experiences they have and what they want to do as far as development and achievement. Victor comes from other end of the spectrum.”

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facecbook.com/RobHarrisReports

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