Predicting what CONCACAF will do is like predicting the weather. You might get it right, but most of the time it’s just guesswork.
Rumours and speculation abound regarding what convoluted recipe CONCACAF will come up with for the qualifying cycle for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It has not been announced yet, but CONCACAF had decided on the qualifying procedure, and Sportsnet has learned the details from an inside source.
There will be five rounds of CONCACAF qualifying, with the first three rounds consisting of home-and-away playoff series.
The last two rounds will remain as before. The fourth round, or semifinal round, will be made up of three groups of four, with the top two from each group moving on. CONCACAF qualifying will conclude with a final round of six teams, commonly known as the Hex.
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We can tell you with certainty that Canada’s campaign will begin at the second stage of qualifying, which will take place during the FIFA international window in early June. Yes, there will be overlap with the early stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Here are some more details you should know. First, CONCACAF will use the August 2014 FIFA world rankings throughout all five rounds of qualifying to determine seeding. This is good news for Canada as the Reds were ranked ninth in CONCACAF in August, as opposed to where they are now, 16th, and free falling into the nether regions of the confederation.
Teams ranked 22nd to 35th will kick off the first round with in a series of home-and-away playoffs next March. The seven survivors advance to the second round where they will be drawn against teams ranked No ninth to 21st. That’s where Canada enters the fray—against the likes of Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and other such nations.
The ten survivors from the second round will head into round three along with teams ranked 7th and 8th. As of August, that was Jamaica and Haiti. Those home-and-away playoffs will take place next fall. A tricky scenario right there for Canada.
The six survivors will then move on to the fourth round, or semifinal group stage, and be drawn into three groups of four nations. At this point, the top six teams in CONCACAF in August enter the fray: Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Once again, the six teams left standing from the three groups in this round will move on to the grueling Hex.
So, in fact World Cup qualifying will begin for Canada before the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will kick off very shortly after the conclusion of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
By the way, the possibility of a Gold Cup doubleheader at BMO Field in Toronto is more than just an idea, or wishful thinking. Organizers are working out details to make it happen. It’s not a slam dunk, but it is a very real possibility.