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Explaining CONCACAF’s new World Cup qualification format

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So, CONCACAF have changed the way teams will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and in a word it is, complicated.

In short, this system will benefit the big boys.

Did this format really need changing?

The governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean released the new format on Wednesday and there was then plenty of confusion among fans across the region as to what all this means.

With the CONCACAF Nations League kicking off this fall, there are plenty of changes in the region and the main theme throughout all of these alterations is to give more meaningful international games and give extra incentives for smaller nations to not only qualify for big tournaments, but play qualifiers against some of the bigger nations.

Still, when it comes to the new World Cup qualification format, things get clouded a little.

This is where we come in. Here’s an explanation of the changes and what they actually mean.


  • Based on their FIFA rankings after the game window in June 2020, the top six teams in the CONCACAF region will compete in the final round of World Cup qualifying, the Hexagonal.
  • Hex matches will take place across September, October and November of 2020 and March and September of 2021.
  • The top three teams from the Hex standings will qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup.
  • In June 2020 the second part of qualifying will begin. CONCACAF teams ranked 7-35 according to their FIFA ranking will take part in a group stage and knockout round.
  • The 29 teams will be divided into five groups of four teams and three groups of three teams, with the games taking place in September, October and November of 2020.
  • The first-place teams in each of the eight groups will qualify for the knockout round.
  • Quarterfinals, semifinals and final matches of the knockout round will be played in home-and-away direct elimination format during March, June and September 2021.
  • Winner of the knockout phase will then play the fourth-place team from the Hex in a home-and-away playoff in October 2021.
  • The winner of the CONCACAF playoff will then play in FIFA’s Intercontinental playoff for a place in the World Cup.

Okay, so you’ve grabbed some aspirin after your lie down. Are you still with us?

This new format is great news for the USMNT, Mexico and Costa Rica. As for Honduras, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica, they know if they finish in fifth and sixth place in the Hex will not have to take part in a huge group stage and knockout round competition.

But the team who finish in fourth now know they aren’t heading straight for FIFA’s Intercontinental playoff for a place in the World Cup.

Adding an extra playoff round to determine who represents CONCACAF in the Intercontinental playoff seems a little bit much but it does give plenty of the smaller nations in the region hope that they can go on a fairytale run in the second part of qualifying, then beat the fourth-place team from the Hex, then an Intercontinental playoff to reach the 2022 World Cup.

Easy, right?

The upcoming Nations League games now have extra significance as wins for the likes of Canada and El Salvador will push them towards the Hex.

Judging on their displays at the Gold Cup this summer, Curacao and Haiti are also two teams who will certainly fancy their chances of making the most of this new long and winding route towards potential World Cup qualification.

This is complex, but overall it gives some chances to the smaller CONCACAF nations as well as keeping the status quo.

Newcastle United season restart preview

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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Newcastle United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Here is a closer look at all things Magpies when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: The Magpies won’t be qualifying for Europe and also are extremely unlikely to be relegated, but is there some danger of the latter? It seems more likely that Newcastle’s season will be more headline watching to see if its controversial takeover is approved and serious pitch-analyzing to see if Joelinton can rediscover what he did well in the Bundesliga last season. Steve Bruce’s men are also in the FA Cup quarterfinals but have Man City coming to St. James’ Park, but the veteran manager getting a result against Pep Guardiola twice in one season seems a tall ask.

[ MORE: Ranking every Newcastle player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: The Magpies have done their best work replicating the system Rafa Benitez implemented last season, but Bruce has shown some real nous in getting four of six points from a flat back four in the final two matches before the pause (That said, the Burnley draw was abysmal).

It’s easy to imagine Bruce using four at the back for the first two matches of the restart, home outings against Blades and Villa, though the Magpies’ 2-0 defeat of Sheffield United at Bramall Lane saw the side effective in a 3-4-3. How it goes from there could dictate Bruce’s plans, though expect more 5-man back lines with Man City, Liverpool, and Spurs yet to come.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Newcastle’s chances ]


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Dubravka —–

— Manquillo — Lascelles — Fernandez — Rose —

—– Shelvey —– S. Longstaff —–

— Ritchie— Almiron — Saint-Maximin—

—– Joelinton —–

There are plenty of things that could and should change here. Loan signings Valentino Lazaro and Nabil Bentaleb have good chances to start and Isaac Hayden’s been more consistently than sophomore-slumping Sean Longstaff. The club also will want to court Matty Longstaff into a new deal and Geordie hero Andy Carroll is healthy and works well in place of or next to Joelinton, who can move to the wing. Fabian Schar and Ciaran Clark are starting caliber backs looking for homes since Steve Bruce moved away from a back five, and Paul Dummett is a healthy and adequate CB, too.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Sheffield United (6/21), Aston Villa (6/24), West Ham, Spurs, Liverpool
Away: Bournemouth (7/1), Man City, Watford, Brighton and Hove Albion

Predicted finish: We’ll know plenty within three days of the season’s restart, as Blades and Villa visit St. James’ Park and the Magpies could sit top half in no time. Eight points clear of the drop zone is not entirely safe with eight matches left, though, so there’s some potential for danger if they lose those winnable matches at an empty SJP. That said, there are too many ways to cross the 40-point mark and so many teams behind them. They sit 13th, and they’ll finish within a place or two of that.

LIVE, Bundesliga: Freiburg hosts top four hopefuls Gladbach

Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach live
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Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram bring red-hot form and top four hopes to Freiburg when Borussia Monchengladbach visits the Schwarzwald-Stadion on Friday for a 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff.

Gladbach is ahead of fifth-place Bayer Leverkusen on goal differential and four points back of second-place Borussia Dortmund.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Freiburg is winless in four and staring down a tough run of fixtures while their Europa League hopes have taken a massive hit.

There were six goals between the sides in late November when Gladbach took all the points in a 4-2 win.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Below is the schedule for the Bundesliga game early on Friday and how you can watch live on TV in the USA and online and follow along via the link above.

Bundesliga how to watch

  • TV Channels: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • USMNT players to watch: Fabian Johnson, Gladbach (not on bench)
  • Kick off time: 2:30 p.m. ET — Freiburg v. Gladbach

Southampton season restart preview

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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they are at ahead of the final nine weeks of the season as Southampton are up next.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Focusing on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints, they have rebounded superbly after that humbling 9-0 defeat to Leicester City in late October. Hasenhuttl’s young side have gone back to basics and have a pretty favorable run of games to finish the season. They still aren’t totally out of the relegation battle but three more wins should keep them up and there is a renewed sense of belief about their future as the boss recently signed a new contract.

[ MORE: Every PL season restart preview ] 

Let’s take a closer look at all things Southampton when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: The season started very badly and hit rock bottom with that hammering by Leicester. Hasenhuttl then went back to his tried and tested 4-2-2-2 formation and kept things simple, as previously he messed around with several formations and his players seemed confused. A run of seven wins from 11 games around the turn of the year pushed them up the Premier League table and they are seven points above the relegation zone with nine games to go. Danny Ings is their main man with 18 goals in all competitions and their high-pressing style often catches out opponents. Defensively they still need to improve but Hasenhuttl has recently signed a new four-year contract extension and there’s a clear plan in place for the future. Saints have some talented young players coming through again and even though they haven’t got a lot of cash to spend, Hasenhuttl has made his team horrible to play against and they should be a solid PL club for the next few seasons.


Tactical analysis: The 4-2-2-2 formation that Hasenhuttl perfected at RB Leipzig has worked well since November with Southampton possessing plenty of speedy attacking players who use this system perfectly. Nathan Redmond, Shane Long and Ings lead the charge, while Sofiane Boufal and Moussa Djenepo are wild cards off the bench. Having extra defensive stability has been key with Hojbjerg and Ward-Prowse playing in deeper midfield roles, plus Stuart Armstrong a perfect blend of a central midfielder and a winger. This formation is very narrow but Saints have pressing from the front mastered and when it works, it works very well.


Possible XI (4-2-2-2) 

—– McCarthy —–

— Walker-Peters — Stephens — Bednarek — Bertrand —

—- Ward-Prowse —- Hojbjerg —-

—- Redmond —- Armstrong —-

—- Long —- Ings —-


Remaining schedule:
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Brighton, Sheffield United
Away: Norwich, Watford, Everton, Man United, Bournemouth

Predicted finish: This really could go one of two ways for Saints. Hasenhuttl has just signed a new contract and there is finally some stability at the club after several managers have come and gone, the Chinese ownership group has said the club has to be self-sustaining and previous star players haven’t been replaced. In theory Saints aren’t really in this relegation battle but if they fail to pick up any points from their first three games, they will be looking nervously over their shoulders. On the other hand, if the pressure is off they could easily push for a top 10 finish as they have a favorable run-in, but is playing a bunch of teams in the relegation spots really a good thing at this time of the season?

Preview: Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich

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Bayern Munich can take another huge step towards winning an eight-straight Bundesliga title when they travel to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday at the BayArena and below are details on how you can watch Bayer v Bayern in the USA.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ]

This will be a beauty of a game as Hansi Flick’s side have been in sumptuous form, but so too have Bayer with Kai Havertz leading the line. Leverkusen have won three of their four games since the restart and remain firmly in the top four battle as they sit in fifth-place but are just four point behind second-placed Borussia Dortmund. Havertz has scored five goals in his last four games and Real Madrid have reportedly offered over $85 million for him this week, which was rejected.

As for Bayern Munich, they are seven points clear at the top of the table and are ripping teams apart with Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Alphonso Davies and Co. in fine form. Bayern have won all four games since the restart, scoring 13 goals in the process, and barring a catastrophic late collapse they will waltz to the title. Philippe Coutinho remains out injured but they aren’t missing him with Serge Gnabry and Kinglsey Coman in fine form.

Below is how to watch Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich on TV in the USA this Saturday, while above you can follow the action live, as the three points are so valuable to both clubs.

Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich, how to watch

  • TV Channels: FS1
  • Stream Live: Via Fox Soccer
  • When: Saturday, June 6 – 9:30 a.m. ET: Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
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