Concacaf president Victor Montagliani has described the new format settled on by the region as having benefits for all member nations, in light of the havoc caused to the World Cup qualifying schedule by the coronavirus pandemic.
With the pandemic effectively shutting down international football, several match days were lost, and some teams were not afforded the chance to improve their rankings. The governing body was therefore forced to come up with a new format for the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The new format comprises three rounds and provides all participating member associations with a chance to compete for the Confederation’s three and a half World Cup spots.
The first round will be played between the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 6-35 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16, 2020.
The 30 men’s national teams will be drawn into six groups of five in a seeded draw. The six highest-ranked teams, El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago will be pre-seeded into groups A to F respectively.
The teams will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches; two home and two away. At the end of the round, the six group winners will progress to the second round.
The second round will be played between the group winners from the first round, with the matchups pre-determined as follows: Group A winner vs Group F winner, Group B winner vs Group E winner, Group C winner vs Group D winner.
The teams will play home and away in a direct elimination format. The three winners will progress to the final round. The final round of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will see the three winners from the second round join the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 1-5 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16th, 2020. The national teams ranked 1-5 had already gained enough FIFA ranking points to guarantee their place in the final round prior to the development of a new format.
The final round teams are Mexico USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras. At the end of the final round, the top three finishing teams will qualify directly to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The fourth-placed team will qualify for the FIFA Intercontinental Playoff.
“Everybody’s world changed in the middle of March with the pandemic. Then we had lost the March windows, the June windows and now the September windows so a lot of things were factored in,” Montagliani told the SportsMax Zone, in an interview on Tuesday. (www.sportsmax.tv)