South America’s road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup came into focus on Tuesday as CONMEBOL held the draw for the confederation’s qualifying process, widely regarded as the toughest in the world.
Qualifying will kick off with five matches on March 26, the first of two match dates for each team in that month’s international window. Each team will also play two qualifiers in 2020’s September, October and November windows, then repeat that process in 2021 with the addition of two match days in June as well. The full schedule can be viewed here.
That means members of MLS’s South American contingent could miss league action if called up to their respective national teams for the qualifiers on March 26 and 31 and Sept. 3 and 8, while the October and November windows are more likely to affect only players from teams that reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Even then, the 2019 playoffs took place between the two international breaks.
As usual, CONMEBOL’s 10 member nations will play one another twice, once at home and once away. The top four finishers in the round-robin format qualify automatically for Qatar ‘22, while the fifth-place team will take part in a two-legged intercontinental playoff vs. an opponent from another confederation.
D.C. United's Junior Moreno and the rest of MLS's Venezuelan corps face a stiff test in their opener, a visit to mighty Argentina – though the Albiceleste will be without Lionel Messi as he completes a disciplinary suspension – then host Colombia in their second March match.
As of now, La Vinotinto won’t have Josef Martinez available, as the Atlanta United star has stepped away from the national team due to conflicts with coach Rafael Dudamel. His club teammate Pity Martinez will hope that he’s back in the mix for Argentina by that point.
In a match that will feature a number of current and former MLS players, Paraguay will meet Peru on the first match day. The Portland Timbers duo of Jorge Moreira and Cristhian Paredes could join New York Red Bulls playmaker Kaku, Atlanta United'sHector Villalba and former Five Stripes star Miguel Almiron for a Paraguayan side meeting Seattle Sounders FC striker Raul Ruidiaz (pictured above), Yordy Reyna from the Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers winger Andy Polo, former Orlando City SC midfielders Carlos Ascues and Yoshi Yotun and defenders Alex Callens from NYCFC and Marcos Lopez from the San Jose Earthquakes.
Peru meets Brazil and Paraguay faces Venezuela in the second match day.
Featuring LAFC forward Brian Rodriguez, Uruguay meets a Chilean side that could feature Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Gutierrez, while Sounders defender Xavier Arreaga and Orlando City's Sebastian Mendez as well as LAFC's Diego Palacios hope to feature for Ecuador against Argentina and then Uruguay.