We finally have a World Cup qualifying format for Concacaf, and the United States Men’s National Team have earned a spot in the final qualifying round. Today, Concacaf announced details of how World Cup qualifying will work for each of the 35 members that are eligible for the 2022 World Cup.
Concacaf is using the FIFA World Rankings from July 16 to determine which teams advance directly to the final round of qualifying. Mexico, the USMNT, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras were the top 5 teams in Concacaf according to the rankings, and they have been awarded direct qualification for the final round. Teams 6-35 will play in a couple rounds of qualifying to determine the final 3 teams that will be added to the final round. El Salvador, Canada, Curaçao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago are the teams that have been seeded into 6 different groups.
Concacaf will have a draw next month to determine which teams will be in groups with those teams. There will be 6 groups of 5 teams in the First Round of qualifying, with each team playing 2 home and 2 away matches during the October 2020 and November 2020 FIFA international fixture windows. The 6 group winners will then advance to the Second Round of qualifying.
In the Second Round, to take place in March 2021, the 6 group winners will be paired off to play home-and-away matches during that window. The matchups have been pre-determined:
Group A winner vs. Group F winner
Group B winner vs. Group E winner
Group C winner vs. Group D winner
The winner of each matchup will advance to the Final Round of qualifying to join the top 5 teams in CONCACAF.
The Final Round will begin in June 2021 with matches and continue in September 2021, October 2021, November 2021, January 2022, and March 2022. Each team will play the others home-and-away for a total of 14 matches. This means that the USMNT will have one final opportunity to play Mexico at Estadio Azteca and host a World Cup qualifier against their archrivals. The top 3 teams at the end of the Final Round will qualify directly for the World Cup in 2022, while the 4th place team will qualify for the inter-confederational playoffs, which will be in June 2022.
The draw for everything, including the schedule that the USMNT will have in the final round, will be in mid-August. No specific date has been set by Concacaf. However, we now know the road that the USMNT will have to take to qualify for Qatar 2022.