MIAMI (AP) — CONCACAF will revise its World Cup qualifying format following FIFA’s decision Thursday to remove September dates from the international match calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The hexagonal that determines the three direct qualifiers for North and Central America and the Carribbean was scheduled to have two games each in September, October and November, followed by two matches apiece in March and September of 2021.
The U.S. was to have been in the six-nation hexagonal with Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and either El Salavdor or Canada. The final berth was to have been determined by FIFA rankings in June, but matches in March and June were scrapped because of the pathogen.
“The challenges presented by postponements to the football calendar, and the incomplete FIFA rankings cycle in our confederation, means our current World Cup qualifying process has been compromised and will be changed,” CONCACAF said in a statement. “We will now work with the new framework provided and liaise with FIFA to finalize a new World Cup qualification format for the CONCACAF.”
Among the possible formats under discussion would be having three groups of four, much like the old semifinal round. The group winners would qualify for the 2022 tournament in Qatar, and there would be playoff opportunities for some teams that don’t finish first.
However, the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica would likely be placed in different groups, eliminating the most attractive qualifiers and making the group Honduras is drawn into the most difficult.
FIFA extended the June 2021 match window by seven days, allowing four matches instead of two. It moved the intercontinental playoffs from March 2022 to June 2022.