Concacaf re-treads road to Qatar 2022 World Cup, opening up qualifying format to all 35 MAs

By Paul Nicholson

July 28 – Regional confederation Concacaf has rescheduled and re-formatted the 2022 World Cup qualifiers that will see all 35 of its FIFA member associations compete for the three places at the Qatar finals, plus the half spot inter-confederation play-off.

The three phase format replaces an original format that saw the top six FIFA ranked nations from Concacaf compete for the three spots and the other nations battling for the half spot play-off.

Under the new scheme the top five ranked FIFA nations – Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras – are pre-qualified for final round of eight nations.

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani (pictured) said that under the original calendar there was a danger countries could be idle for two and a half years. “We didn’t want teams not playing. Now it gives everyone a real shot and keeps the integrity of the five (prequalified teams). Out of the 30 nations we have probably got 12 who really fancy their chances. This system gives them that chance.”

It also balances out the region’s competitive international match calendar from the end of this year through to the 2022 World Cup.

The 30 nations battling for the three new spots in the expanded final round of 2022 qualification will start in a first round of six groups of five teams in each.

Based on FIFA rankings as of July 16, 2020, the Top six ranked teams – El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago – will be pre-seeded into groups. Each team will play every other team in their group once; a total of four matches per team.

The matches will be played in the October and November 2020 FIFA match windows.

The winner of each group will then progress to the second round and three home and away matchups: Winner Group A vs Winner Group F; Winner Group B vs Winner Group E; Winner Group C vs Winner Group D.

These games will be played in the March 2021 international window.

The three winners will then join pre-qualified five nations in an eight team league format that will see each team play 14 games – home and away against each other. These games will be will start in the double FIFA match window in June 2021 and continue through the September, October, November 2021; and January and March 2022 match windows.

The top three finishers will qualify directly for Qatar 2022 while the fourth placed team will qualify for the Interconfederational Playoff scheduled for June 2022.

“All teams now have the chance to compete for direct access to Qatar 2022 and dream of playing at a World Cup, while we have also respected the positions of those nations which had already mathematically qualified for the Final Round under the previous system,” said Montagliani.

“… we have some great football to look forward to later this year and in 2021. Our next priorities are to continue progressing plans for the resumption of our club competitions and to ensure we finalize a women’s international calendar for the coming years which supports the continued development of women’s football in our region.”

The Concacaf Nations League Finals that were due to be played in Houston and Dallas in June 2020 but were suspended, have now been rescheduled for March 2021, at a venue in the US to be determined. Costa Rica vs Mexico and USA vs Honduras make up the semi-finals that will be followed three days later by the final.

Concacaf said that the second edition of the Nations League will begin in June 2022 and conclude with the 2022/23 finals in March 2023.

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