CONCACAF shakes up World Cup qualifying format
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CONCACAF has revealed a new qualifying format for the 2022 World Cup after the coronavirus pandemic forced match cancelations in the March, June, and September international windows of 2020.

There will now be three rounds of matches standing between most of the region's national teams and a place at the 2022 tournament in Qatar. The final stage will comprise of eight teams, rather than daunting six-team round commonly known as "the Hex."

In the new format, the five best teams based on FIFA's July 16, 2020 rankings are given a bye into the final round. Those teams are Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras.

There are three-and-a-half spots available for the 2022 World Cup - the top three teams in the final stage qualify for the tournament, while the fourth team will face an intercontinental playoff scheduled for June 2022.

First round

  • The 30 teams ranked outside the top five in CONCACAF are split evenly into six groups of five.
  • The teams ranked 6-10 - El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, and Haiti - will be pre-seeded into groups A to F, respectively.
  • Each team plays a group rival once - two home and two away - before the winner advances to the second round.
  • These matches are slated to be played between October and November 2020.

Second round

  • Two-legged matchups between the group winners are arranged as follows:
    Group A winner vs. Group F winner
    Group B winner vs. Group E winner
    Group C winner vs. Group D winner
  • The games are slated to be played in March 2021, with the winners progressing to the third round.

Final round

  • The three teams that successfully navigate the first two rounds join Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras in the final round.
  • The eight teams will battle it out in an eight-team round-robin group stage.
  • The teams will play each other home and away for a total of 14 games.
  • The top three qualify for the World Cup. The fourth-placed team enters an international playoff to try to book its spot in Qatar.

Overall, a team beginning the qualification cycle in round one can play a minimum of four games and a maximum of 22 games, if they finish fourth in the final round.

CONCACAF shakes up World Cup qualifying format
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