The first round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers for North America, Central America and the Caribbean have been pushed back to early next year as the region continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
World football governing body FIFA and regional confederation CONCACAF announced that the qualifying tournament, which had been due to begin in October, will now kick off in March, reports Xinhua news agency.
“Many parts of the region continue to have very challenging public health situations, and that has been a key factor in this decision,” read a statement on FIFA’s official website on Tuesday.
“Additionally, several countries across the confederation have travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, which would make international football involving 30 national teams extremely difficult.”
FIFA added that a new schedule would be unveiled “in due course” after further talks with CONCACAF officials, confirming only that the first round would be in March.
Under CONCACAF’s qualifying format, the winners of each of the six first-round groups will play a two-legged knockout tie for a place in the last phase. Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras have already secured a place in the final round by virtue of their rankings.
The next edition of the FIFA World Cup will be played in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, 2022.