The United States men’s national team now knows its path to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in a big way.
Traditionally, nations competed to make it to the Hexagonal, where they would play five teams home-and-away for the right to qualify to the world’s most-celebrated tournament.
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This time, it’s an Octagonal.
The USMNT joins Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras as team given passes into the final round of qualifying.
Who will join them? Here’s how we will find out.
October and November will bring Round One, as six groups of five teams will decide one winner to advance to Round Two.
Then March 2021 sees the six group winners drawn against each other in two-legged ties to reach the Oct/Octo/Ocho (It’s gotta be The Oct, right?).
The 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League semifinals will also be staged that month. As a reminder, Mexico meets Costa Rica and the USMNT faces Honduras in the semis.
The Oct — yeah, this seems right — will run June 2021-March 2022, with seven home and seven away matches for each nation determining which three nations get automatic berths in the winter World Cup.
June 2022 will see the intercontinental playoff between CONCACAF’s fourth-place team and a qualifier from another region. Let’s finish third or better, huh, Yanks? Don’t need that sort of stress in our summer.
Here’s what USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter had to say:
“It’s good that we have clarity regarding the format and scheduling, which allows us to chart the course ahead. We are looking forward to the challenge that this new World Cup Qualifying format will present. We have a busy 2021 that gives us the opportunity to compete for trophies and also take a big step towards qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”