Covid concerns force Concacaf to move start of 2022 World Cup qualifiers to March 2021

September 9 – Concacaf have shifted their World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers back from the October and November international match windows into 2021, following regional uncertainty around whether the spread of the coronavirus will make it possible to get games played.

2022 qualifiers for the region will now start in March 2021.

“Many parts of the region continue to have very challenging public health situations, and that has been a key factor in this decision. Additionally, several countries across the confederation have travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, which would make international football involving 30 national teams extremely difficult,” said a Concacaf press release.
When Concacaf held their draw for the qualifiers last month it was done with the caveat that they would not take place if there was a public health threat.

Concacaf had already re-organised its qualifying format, increasing the opportunity for more nation to compete for a Qatar 2022 spot. The new format sees teams in six groups of six play each other once with the six group winners progressing to a knock-out stage. The three knock-out winners will then go through to meet the top five ranked FIFA nations – Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras – in a final league of eight teams to qualify three nations to Qatar 2022 and one for the inter-continental play-off.

When announcing the new format in July, Concacaf president Victor Montaglini 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.”

In total Concacaf needs 20 international match days to complete Qatar 2022 qualifying by March 2022 and provide a nation for the inter-continental play-off spot.

The Asian Football Confederation has already announced that the remaining games of its first group stage 2022 World Cup qualifiers had been shifted from the end of this year into 2021 following concern over the spread of Covid-19, different international travel and quarantine requirements and player and public health concerns.

Concacaf said it “will now work with FIFA to finalize a new schedule, beginning with the first round in March 2021, which will be communicated in due course.”

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