Concacaf has announced an updated men’s international calendar, including a new format for the Concacaf Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and a projected schedule that will see the matches take place in the FIFA windows of October 2020 and November 2020.
The World Cup Qualifiers will now consist of three rounds and provide all participating countries with the chance to compete for the three and a half World Cup spots.
"It’s been very well received by our members," FIFA vice president and Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said during a halftime interview at the MLS is Back Tournament.
The first round will feature 30 teams and will be played between the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 6-35 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16, 2020.
For the first round, 30 teams will be drawn into six groups of five in a seeded draw. El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago will be pre-seeded into groups A to F, as the six highest-ranked teams.
Each team will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches; two home and two away. These games will be played in the FIFA match windows of October 2020 and November 2020.
The six group winners will progress to the second round, where six teams will face off in the following format:
- Group A winner vs Group F winner
- Group B winner vs Group E winner
- Group C winner vs Group D winner
The teams will play home and away in a direct elimination format in the FIFA match window of March 2021, with the three winners progressing to the final round.
The final round will consist of eight teams, with the three winners from the second round joining the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 1-5 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16, 2020: Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras. The national teams ranked 1-5 had already gained enough FIFA ranking points to guarantee their place in the final round prior to the development of a new format. The eight teams will play home and away legs, with each team playing 14 matches.
The final round will begin in the double FIFA match window in June 2021 and continue in the FIFA match windows of September, October, November 2021 and January and March 2022.
At the end of the final, the top three finishing teams will qualify directly for the 2022 World Cup. The fourth placed team will qualify for the FIFA Intercontinental Playoff, scheduled to be played in June 2022.