CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying will look a little bit different during the 2022 World Cup cycle. The rules and regulations have changed twice since the last round of Qualification with CONCACAF having to pivot from their previous decision in 2018 that lower-seeded sides facing a different route of qualification than the top six in the region.
In its place is a system that is fairly close to what was used during previous cycles. There will be three rounds of qualification with the lowest 25 sides in the region being split into five groups in the first round. Canada has been placed into Group B with Suriname, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Aruba. Should they make it out of the group they will go onto the second round, where the group winners will face-off in three home-versus-away ties. The winners from those matches will then go on to play in the eight-team final round which will include Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States. The top three sides will qualify for Qatar 2022 while the fourth-placed team will participate in an intercontinental playoff.
Of course, as with everything during this global pandemic, this schedule is very much subject to change. With air travel severely restricted throughout the region the expectation of having home-versus-home matchups seems like wishful thinking. As does maintaining the rigid FIFA international window (Matches in the first round are slated to begin in March 2021). The possibility having portions of the tournament in a bubble format at one location or multiple locations (for the earlier rounds) has already been discussed. Of course, ironing out the costs of such an idea (especially for developing countries where the cost of travel is already a main strain on their budget) and working it within FIFA’s schedule (would players need to quarantine upon entry?) would need to be addressed.
While there are still certainly issues that need to be ironed out the new format should lead to another exciting final round and possibly a few more upsets.