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Community Corner: When should World Cup qualifying begin?

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Now that COVID-19 has wiped out another international window, the calendar could shift

United States v Honduras - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

Late last week, Concacaf suspended the Nations League playoffs along with Gold Cup qualifiers that were set for this June due to the coronavirus outbreak. The move came just as FIFA put an end to any hope of international play in June, canceling the entire international fixture window for both the men and the women. This brings a lot of issues to the table, but none more important for Concacaf than the beginning of World Cup qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, which is supposed to begin in September.

When Concacaf determined that there will be a hexagonal round for the top 6 in the region by FIFA ranking, leaving 7-35 to compete in its own qualifying tournament to determine who would face the 4th place team in the Hex, it said it would make the determination of who were the top 6 based on the June 2020 FIFA rankings. The United States are firmly solid in the top 6, but that would have allowed El Salvador and Canada, the 6th and 7th teams by FIFA rankings currently, to play matches both in March and June in an effort to get enough points to be that final team in the Hex, which gives them a 50% chance of making the World Cup and a 66.7% chance of at least making the Concacaf playoff against the winner of the non-Hex round of qualifying.

So, now comes the question of whether World Cup qualifying will be able to begin in September as scheduled. Concacaf will want to play the finals, and Canada and El Salvador (and even Curaçao, Panama, or Honduras) will desire to play the games they were counting on to either boost them into the top 6 or solidify their position and earn a trip to the Hex. There’s also Gold Cup qualifiers that need to be played to fill out the final 4 teams of next summer’s tournament.

Assuming FIFA doesn’t change the schedule of international fixture windows, there are 10 windows left before the 2022 World Cup draw is set to take place in April 2022: September 2020, October 2020, November 2020, March 2021, June 2021, September 2021, October 2021, November 2021, and March 2022. That’s still plenty of time to get the Nations League playoffs, Gold Cup qualifiers, and World Cup qualifiers all completed, barring additional coronavirus-like play stoppages.

So, this week’s Community Corner question asks you: when should World Cup qualifying begin? Should it begin on time with Concacaf figuring out some place to put the Nations League playoffs and Gold Cup qualifiers? Or, do you think they should push the start of qualifying back to finish Nations League and to give those teams who need it a shot at solidifying their position in the top 6?

Hit the comments and discuss!