CONCACAF unveils new World Cup qualifying format

Thirty-five teams will vie for a place in football’s showpiece tournament in Qatar when a re-jigged CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying tournament begins in October.

The first phase, to be held over four match days in October and November this year, will comprise 30 teams, occupying No. 6 to No. 35 in the FIFA world rankings, football’s governing body in North and Central American and the Caribbean said on Tuesday, reports Xinhua news agency.

The winners of each of the six groups will advance to the second round, during which they will bid for three slots available in the final stage of the qualifying tournament.

The top three teams in the last phase – a home-and-away round-robin in which Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras are already guaranteed a place – will earn a berth at Qatar 2022.

The fourth-ranked team will play an intercontinental playoff in June 2022.

The new format follows a four-month COVID-19 shutdown that has forced football authorities across the Americas to overhaul their calendars.

CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said the changes provided flexibility in case the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“There are some mechanisms built in where we can pivot if we need to,” he said on a conference call. “But if 2021 starts mimicking 2020 well then I think it’s not just CONCACAF that has to go back to the drawing board it’s the entire football world.”

The draw for CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifiers will be held in August.

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