August 10 – Concacaf’s men’s national teams return to World Cup 2022 qualifying action after their Gold Cup exploits with a series of triple match international weekends starting September 2.
Concacaf qualifying for Qatar 2022 will see the eight top teams in the region compete home and away in what is being called the ‘octagonal’. Three teams will qualify outright with the fourth team going through to the inter-continental play-off.
Each of the eight nations will play 14 matches the international match windows of September, October and November 2021, and January and March 2022. The inter-continental playoff is scheduled to be played in June 2022.
Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and USA (Concacaf’s top five ranked nations) have been joined in the octagonal by Canada, El Salvador and Panama who qualified via winning their groups in June (30 nations competed in six groups) and then a home and away play-off against other group winners.
The schedule throws up some tricky opening encounters. The US in their opening fixtures face El Salvador away, followed by Canada at home, before travelling to Honduras.
The US failed to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup and the scars from that campaign still run deep. With 2022 qualification in mind, the US rested some of their European-based players (including Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna) from their Gold Cup winning squad with the intention of bringing them back for the qualifiers.
The Gold Cup showed how the performance gap was narrowing between Concacaf’s traditional big dogs of Mexico and the US, and a group of challengers who are bubbling up to the top of the confederation’s performance hierarchy. The US – who only just squeezed past Canada with a first minute goal in the Gold Cup group stages – will face Canada in Nashville in what looks like being the pick of the ties.
Canada will also have their own European and title winning stars in Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Lille’s Jonathan David back from injury.
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