MIAMI, Fla. – The Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar have been revealed. There will be three rounds in this qualifying process. Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras, USA, and Costa Rica will be exempted from the first two rounds. This is because they have the highest FIFA rankings of all the Concacaf nations and get a bye to the third octagonal round.
Qatar 2022 – Concacaf Qualifiers Revealed
First Stage – Group Stage
The first stage according to concacaf.com will have 30 teams ranked 6-35. This round will have six groups of five from October-November 2020. The top six nations of this stage are already pre-seeded in each group. These six nations are Canada, El Salvador, Panama, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Curaçao. The winners of each group will enter the second round of the Concacaf Qualifiers.
Second Round – Knockout Stage
The second round will take place in March 2021. The six group winners will be split into three home and away matches. More specifically, the winner of Group A will face the winner of Group F. Then the winner of Group B will face the winner of Group E, and the winner of Group C will face the winner of Group D. The three winners of these home and away matches via aggregate score will go to the octagonal round with the top five teams in Concacaf.
Third Round – Octagonal Round
The octagonal round is the last stage of the Concacaf qualifiers. These three winners will join the previous five mentioned countries with the highest FIFA ranking points. The window for this stage is much longer than the first two stages. In 2021, this stage will take place in June and also September-November. It will also take place in January and March of 2022.
Like the hexagonal stage of previous World Cup qualification cycles, the top three teams of this octagonal round will go to the FIFA World Cup. Lastly, the fourth-place team will try to qualify via the FIFA Intercontinental Playoff in 2022. The FIFA Intercontinental Playoff will take place in June 2022.
Overview of the Concacaf Qualifiers 2022
The viewpoint of this Concacaf qualification process differs for each nation. In the old format for 2022, El Salvador would have made the hexagonal stage as one of the top six FIFA nations. Instead, they must play potentially all stages of the qualification process in order to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. One of the first people to report this was Kristian Jack of TSN.
New Concacaf WCQ format is in 3 parts.
5 teams straight to Octagonal final round
30 teams into six groups of 5. Four games played (2 home, 2 away).
Those 6 group winners meet in 3 2-legged games to determine which 3 teams meet Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica & Honduras.
— Kristian Jack (@KristianJack) July 27, 2020
Canada, Panama, and Haiti on the other hand might be relieved that there is a more straight-forward path to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup. In the old format (according to concacaf.com), there was no real direct way for qualifying to the FIFA World Cup for the 7-35 ranked teams.
They would have to win their group and be the last team standing in the knockout stage. Then they would have a two-legged match with the fourth-place team from the Hexagonal round. They would then potentially have a two-legged match with a team from another Confederation in the FIFA Intercontinental Playoff if they make it that far.
Obviously, these changes would not have happened if the coronavirus pandemic did not occur. It is tough times for everybody including sports. According to Brian Straus of si.com, Concacaf had to cancel the September window because of COVID-19.
Lastly, there may not be any travelling at least initially because of COVID-19. All Concacaf teams may need to play in one venue just like MLS did in the MLS is Back Tournament. This would benefit Canada as they do not have to travel to hostile territory in Central America.