Concacaf unveils new format for 2022 World Cup qualifying

Canada midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) and teammate Atiba Hutchinson (13) embrace as they celebrate a victory over the United States in second half of CONCACAF Nations League soccer action in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. (Cole Burston/CP)

Concacaf announced a brand new format for its 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign on Monday, with all 35 Concacaf members involved.

The format is split into three rounds. The first round will involve teams ranked from No. 6 to No. 35 in Concacaf as of July 16. The 30 countries will be drawn into six groups of five, with the six highest-ranked teams (El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago) pre-seeded from groups A to F, respectively.

Each team will face other once, with every country playing two home and two away matches, which will be contested during the FIFA international windows in October 2020 and November 2020. The six group winners will then progress to the second round.

The second round will pit all six group winners from the first phase against each other in pre-drawn matchups:

Group A winner vs. Group F winner
Group B winner vs. Group E winner
Group C winner vs. Group D winner

Those teams will play home and away in March 2021 with the three winners advancing to the third and final round.

From there, the three winners from the second round join the top-five sides in the Concacaf rankings. Every team has 14 matches, home and away, against the other seven countries.

The top three will automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Fourth place will play a two-legged inter-confederation playoff in June 2022 in order to book its spot in Qatar.

For Canada specifically, it’s an equally tough road to the World Cup as the original format. They’d have to top Group B in the first phase, then likely face Haiti (who is already drawn in Group E) home and away to reach the final round where they’d face the likes of Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States.

As a result of the reformatted qualifying campaign, Concacaf has also moved the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League semifinals to March 2021 with the final played at a later date.

The next edition of the Nations League will now begin in June 2022 and conclude in March 2023.

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