The Octagon is officially undergoing some changes. Today, FIFA announced changes to the international calendar that would affect the World Cup qualifying schedule for Concacaf and could ultimately switch around the road to the 2022 World Cup for the United States Men’s National Team. The changes result from the number of matches that have been postponed or rescheduled in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Among the many changes to the calendar includes the following additions of match dates to several international windows for Concacaf.
This means that, for all Concacaf teams, the September 2021, October 2021, January 2022, and March 2022 windows will now be 3 matches instead of two. Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy provided details on the scheduling format of those international windows.
Calendar change for Concacaf teams allows them to play 4 extra dates needed for expansion of final round of World Cup ‘22 qualifying from 10 to 14 games, then lost by delay in start of Octagonal until Sept. ‘21. Creates Thursday-Sunday-Wednesday triple dates for 4 of 5 windows. pic.twitter.com/xpM91GcfYC— Paul Kennedy (@pkedit) December 4, 2020
These new dates will replace the 4 Octagon match dates in June 2021 that were nixed due to the postponement of the beginning of Round 1 of World Cup qualifying this fall. The June 2021 window theoretically will be needed to determine the final 3 teams that will join Mexico, the USMNT, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Honduras in the Final Stage of qualifying.
The old calendar had been set when Concacaf held its World Cup qualifying draw back in August. That old calendar was:
Window 1 (June 2021): @ A/F winner, vs. B/E winner (postponed) Window 2 (June 2021): @ Honduras , vs. Jamaica (postponed)
Window 3 (September 2021): @ C/D winner, vs. Costa Rica
Window 4 (October 2021): vs. Mexico, @ Jamaica
Window 5 (November 2021): vs. A/F winner, @ B/E winner
Window 6 (January 2022): vs. Honduras, @ Mexico
Window 7 (March 2022): vs. C/D winner, @ Costa Rica
With the addition of the new match dates to the existing windows, it’s unclear if Concacaf intends to shift the entire calendar or plug in the postponed matches into the new match dates and otherwise keep the schedule intact. Concacaf could also completely reschedule the matches, leaving people reworking their personal calendars. The Thursday-Sunday-Wednesday format may not be set in stone either.
So, for now, here is what we have for our new calendar:
Window 1 (September 2021): 3 matches
Window 2 (October 2021): 3 matches
Window 3 (November 2021): 2 matches
Window 4 (January 2022): 3 matches
Window 5 (March 2022): 3 matches
Let’s hope for an entirely healthy player pool in 2021, because the number of matches the USMNT will have will have in a short time will certainly test their match fitness.
UPDATE: We now know the schedule. Concacaf did the least Concacaf thing they could do: they just kept the original schedule and shifted the dates to fit within the new windows:
Now, here are the match windows for the USMNT:
Window 1 (September 2021): @ A/F winner, vs. B/E winner, @ Honduras
Window 2 (October 2021): vs. Jamaica, @ C/D winner, vs. Costa Rica
Window 3 (November 2021): vs. Mexico, @ Jamaica
Window 4 (January 2022): vs. A/F winner, @ B/E winner, vs. Honduras
Window 5 (March 2022): @ Mexico, vs. C/D winner, @ Costa Rica
And, to remind you of the teams that still could qualify for the Octagon:
Group A - El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, U.S. Virgin Islands
Group B - Canada, Suriname, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba
Group C - Curaçao, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, British Virgin Islands
Group D - Panama, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla
Group E - Haiti, Nicaragua, Belize, Saint Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands
Group F - Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas
Now, we know the windows. Now, Concacaf just needs to confirm the dates. Continue the discussion and stay tuned to this space for more updates as they come in!