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USMNT and Canada get boost, learn opponent for potential WCQ playoff

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The draw for FIFA's intercontinental playoffs was held Friday and offered a boost to the North American nations eyeing a place at the 2022 World Cup.

If the United States or Canada finishes fourth in CONCACAF's final World Cup qualifying round - the "Octagonal" - they'll play against a team from the Oceania region (OFC) to determine who earns a ticket to Qatar.

That single-elimination match will take place at a neutral venue on June 13 or 14. OFC qualifying is yet to begin because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but New Zealand is the heavy favorite to emerge as the region's playoff representative for the fourth consecutive World Cup cycle.

The other intercontinental playoff will see a representative from Asia - possibly Australia or Japan - take on the fifth-place finisher from South American qualifying.

Though the CONMEBOL table remains very tight, it seems likely that one of Colombia, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, or Paraguay will enter the playoff; Brazil and Argentina have already qualified for the World Cup, while Ecuador is on the verge of an automatic berth, too.

Avoiding those potential opponents is a boon for the CONCACAF hopefuls.

The top three teams from the Octagonal earn automatic spots in next year's tournament, while the fourth-place finisher goes into the winner-takes-all playoff. Canada sits atop the table with six games remaining, ahead of the United States and Mexico; fourth-place Panama, currently occupying the playoff spot, is only two points adrift of John Herdman's team.

CONCACAF qualifying resumes in January.

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