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Report: New Concacaf World Cup qualifying format to create 12-team upper tier

The top 12 teams in the region could have the inside track at the World Cup.

SOCCER: JUN 30 CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinals - Curacao v United States Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Concacaf could be moving towards a new format for World Cup qualifying. According to Panamanian outlet RPC, Concacaf is set to abandon the Hexagonal World Cup qualifying format for the top teams in the region in favor of a new format that would include as many as 12 teams in that upper tier, including the United States.

We had indications that the qualifying format, as we knew it, would be changed after comments last month from Concacaf president Victor Montagliani that suggested that they would need to change the format due to the hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This report brings to light a new format that could include 12 of Concacaf’s 35 World Cup-eligible teams in the top tier of World Cup qualifying. The 12 teams that would make the top tier of qualification:

  1. Mexico
  2. United States
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Jamaica
  5. Honduras
  6. El Salvador
  7. Canada
  8. Curaçao
  9. Panama
  10. Haiti
  11. Trinidad and Tobago
  12. Antigua and Barbuda

The top 12 teams according to the FIFA World Rankings would be split into 3 groups of 4 for a double round robin, home-and-away round of qualifying matches. The winner of each group would earn direct qualification to the 2022 World Cup. The 2nd place team from each group would join the winner of the lower tier qualification tournament (which consists of teams 13-35 in the region) in a mini tournament. The winner of that 4-team bracket would advance to represent Concacaf in the inter-confederation playoff, where they could earn a spot in the World Cup with a win.

What does this mean for the USMNT? It would first mean that, as the 2nd-highest ranked team in Concacaf, they would likely be one of the 3 top seeds in the 12-team draw along with Mexico and Costa Rica. That would mean the 3 teams would be placed in separate groups and would not play each other. So, for those fans hoping for one last trip to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City or playing El Tri and Los Ticos at home may be out of luck. It’s unclear how the rest of the tier would be drawn or how the lower tier qualifying would be formatted.

This report has yet to be confirmed by Concacaf, but we are starting to see reports about what we as fans ultimately already know deep down: the coronavirus pandemic has ended all aspirations for one final Hex.