World Cup qualifiers in North and Central America could now feature three games in one match window instead of the existing two, after FIFA Council approval on Friday.
The sport’s governing body added one day to the existing windows for September 2021, October 2021, January 2022 and March 2022, setting up Concacaf teams to play three games in a condensed window when gathering for World Cup qualifiers head of Qatar 2022.
Under this format, the 14-game Concacaf qualifying campaign for those like the US men’s national team will involve four windows with three games, increasing the demands on players. Only the November 2021 window would include two games, which is more representative of the usual cadence.
As the USMNT and others build toward the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, they’ve seen the schedule shifted several times because of COVID-19 factors. Now, time is of the essence with the upcoming World Cup set for Nov. 21 to Dec. 18 next year.
The FIFA council also voted that the 2021 Club World Cup will be hosted by Japan in late 2021 with seven teams. A Major League Soccer team has never advanced to that tournament, though four remain in contention when the Concacaf Champions League returns to action Dec. 15 with Atlanta United, LAFC, New York City FC and the Montreal Impact all competing.
The 2021 Club World Cup ensures there will be two editions held within the same calendar year, since the 2020 tournament is being held this coming Feb. 1-Feb. 11 in Qatar. The reigning Club World Cup champion is Liverpool, snapping a streak of three straight titles by Real Madrid.