Reggie Cannon - USMNT - Costa Rica - dribbling
US Soccer

Concacaf changes World Cup qualifying plans, aims for Nations League Finals resolution

The FIFA Council cancelled Thursday the September international window for countries outside of Europe and South America, leaving the US men’s national team awaiting a new start date in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The move has been anticipated, with Concacaf president Victor Montagliani previously saying the format is bound to look different due to COVID-19. As plans get worked out, the USMNT last played Feb. 1 in a friendly against Costa Rica.

“Concacaf welcomes the decisions made by FIFA regarding the men’s and women’s international match calendars,” a confederation statement read. “Many of our Member Associations and their communities continue to face significant challenges due to COVID-19 and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

Concacaf also reaffirmed its plans to proceed with the Concacaf Nations League Finals, which were originally slated to be played this month in Texas. The USMNT, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras had all reached the semifinal round by topping their respective groups.

“The challenges presented by postponements to the football calendar, and the incomplete FIFA rankings cycle in our confederation, means our current World Cup Qualifying process has been compromised and will be changed,” Concacaf said in a statement. “We will now work with the new framework provided and liaise with FIFA to finalize a new World Cup Qualification format for the Concacaf region.”

Another complication is that October marks the next international calendar’s next FIFA-approved window. The June 2021 window has also been extended one week, and the intercontinental playoffs have been moved from March 2022 to June 2022, with the tournament finals not slated to take place until late November 2022.