CONCACAF has today published an updated men’s international calendar which includes a new format for the CONCACAF Qualifiers to the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar and updates on the CONCACAF Nations League and 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
CONCACAF Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar
The new CONCACAF Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar comprise of three rounds and provide all participating Member Associations with the chance to compete for the Confederation’s three and a half World Cup spots.
The First Round (30 teams) 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.
Each team will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches; two home and two away. These games will be played in the FIFA match windows of October 2020 and November 2020.
At the end of the First Round the six group winners will progress to the Second Round.
The Second Round (six teams) 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 in the FIFA match window of March 2021. The three winners will progress to the Final Round.
The Final Round (eight teams) of the CONCACAF Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar 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 16, 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.
Final Round teams: 1. Mexico 2. USA 3. Costa Rica 4. Jamaica 5. Honduras 6. Second Round Winner 7. Second Round Winner 8. Second Round Winner.
The Final Round will begin in the double FIFA match window in June 2021 and continue in the FIFA match windows of September, October, November 2021 and January and March 2022.
The eight teams will play each other home and away, with each team playing 14 matches.
At the end of the Final Round, the top three finishing teams will qualify directly to the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar. The fourth placed team will qualify for the FIFA Intercontinental Playoff, scheduled to be played in June 2022.
CONCACAF Nations League
The CONCACAF Nations League is a key part of the Confederation’s strategy to provide more competitive football opportunities for national teams across the region.
The inaugural group stage included all 41 CONCACAF men’s national teams in the FIFA match windows of September, October and November 2019 with great competition across the region.
The League A group winners: Mexico, USA, Honduras and Costa Rica qualified for the first CONCACAF Nations League Finals, originally scheduled for June 2020 but suspended due to the public health situation.
The 2019/20 CONCACAF Nations League Finals will now take place in the FIFA match window of March 2021, at a venue in the United States to be determined.
As previously announced, the semifinal matchups are Costa Rica vs Mexico and USA vs Honduras as determined by their performances on the field (points gained) during the group stage.
A CONCACAF Nations League Final match will follow the semifinals to crown a first CONCACAF Nations League champion. There will also be a third placed match with all games played across one FIFA match window.
Additionally, CONCACAF can now confirm that the second edition of this exciting competition, the 2022/23 CONCACAF Nations League, will begin in June 2022 and conclude with the 2022/23 CONCACAF Nations League Finals in March 2023.
2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is the Confederation’s flagship men’s international football competition. The 2019 event was expanded from 12 to 16 teams and the Final – competed between Mexico and the USA – was viewed by a record 8.5 million fans.
This event is eagerly anticipated by fans across the region and CONCACAF can now confirm the start date for the 2021 Gold Cup will be July 10, 2021, and the Final will take place on August 1, 2021.
The CONCACAF Road to Gold Cup Qualifiers were due to be played in the March 2020 and June 2020 FIFA match windows which were suspended.
CONCACAF will now work towards creating a centralized Gold Cup preliminary round for those teams which had been due to play the Road to Gold Cup Qualifiers.
This will take place in the United States in the week before the commencement of the Gold Cup group stages. Further details on the format and schedule of this preliminary round will be provided in the coming weeks.
The 12 participating teams in the preliminary round will be: Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
“Many communities across the CONCACAF region continue to face very difficult circumstances due to the current public health situation and my thoughts and prayers go out to them,” said CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani.
“Given the suspension of the March, June and September FIFA match windows, and with so many of our Member Associations unable to complete a full FIFA rankings cycle, the previous CONCACAF Qualifiers were compromised, and a new approach was required.
“With the launch of the CONCACAF Nations League in 2018, and the expansion of the Gold Cup in 2019, we have consistently provided more opportunities for all our Member Associations to play and compete on the international stage. That was our starting point for developing this new format and we believe we have struck the right balance.
“All teams now have the chance to compete for direct access to Qatar 2022 and dream of playing at a World Cup, while we have also respected the positions of those nations which had already mathematically qualified for the Final Round under the previous system.
“The love for our game continues to grow across the region and with CONCACAF Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2022, CONCACAF Nations League Finals and the 2021 Gold Cup now scheduled in this updated men’s international calendar, we have some great football to look forward to later this year and in 2021.
“Our next priorities are to continue progressing plans for the resumption of our club competitions and to ensure we finalize a women’s international calendar for the coming years which supports the continued development of women’s football in our region.” added Montagliani.
The draw for all rounds of the CONCACAF Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will take place in mid-August 2020 with full details to follow in the coming days.