Concacaf announced changes to World Cup qualifying for the 2022 cycle on Wednesday. With limited time to schedule qualifying, Concacaf is opting to enter the top six nations in the region direclty into the Hexagonal round where the top three finishers will advance to the 2022 World Cup. The rest of the region will play to meet the 4th-place Hexagonal finisher for the final World Cup qualifying spot. Concacaf will determine the top six teams in the region using next summer’s FIFA Ranking.
“This new FIFA World Cup Qualifying format, based on the FIFA rankings, makes every competitive match count,” Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said. “Alongside the Concacaf Nations League, and our expanded Gold Cup, it will raise standards of play to unprecedented levels and develop the sport across the region. Making the leading Concacaf nations stronger on the global stage, while giving our emerging footballing nations the chance to pursue their dreams of playing at a World Cup.”
FIFA no longer issues rankings each month, so Concacaf will use the ranking likely to happen at the end of July, 2020. Based on the current June rankings, the top six teams in Concacaf are Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras, and El Salvador. The top three are unlikely to change based on the Gold Cup results. Concacaf will use the September, October, and November match windows in 2020 and the March and September windows in 2021 for the Hexagonal.
The remaining 29 teams in the region will play an unbalanced group stage (5 groups of 4, 3 groups of 3) during the September, October, and November 2020 windows. The group winners advance to the home-and-away knockout rounds with the quarterfinals during the March 2021 window, the semifinals in June, and the final in September. The winner plays the 4th-place finisher in the Hexagonal during the October 2021 window. That team advances to the intercontinental playoff for the final World Cup qualifying spot.
Logo courtesy of Concacaf