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Concacaf reshapes national team calendar amid Covid-19

Uriel Antuna of Mexico vies for the ball against Jaylon Bather of Bermuda during a Nations League match (by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) has reshaped its qualifying tournament for the 2022 Fifa World Cup, and has also provided updates on the suspended inaugural Nations League and 2021 Gold Cup, amid the disruption caused by Covid-19.

The new Concacaf qualifiers for its three-and-a-half places at Qatar 2022 will comprise of three rounds, expanding from six to eight teams for its final round. Comprised of 30 teams, the first round will be played between member associations ranked six to 35, based on the Fifa rankings as of July 16.

The 30 men’s national teams will be drawn into six groups of five in a seeded draw. The six highest ranked teams – El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad & Tobago – will be pre-seeded into groups A to F, respectively.

Each team will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches; two home and two away. These games will be played in the Fifa match windows of October and November 2020.

At the end of the first round the six group winners will progress to the second round, where they will face each other in three two-leg encounters in the Fifa match window of March 2021. The three winners will progress to the final round, where they will join the member associations ranked one to five that had already gained enough Fifa ranking points to guarantee their place prior to the development of a new format.

Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras, along with the three winning second round teams, will commence a final round in June 2021. The tournament will run through to March 2022, with each team playing 14 matches through facing each other home and away.

At the end of the final round, the top three teams will qualify directly to the World Cup. The fourth placed team will qualify for the Intercontinental Playoff, scheduled to be played in June 2022.

The inaugural group stage of the Nations League included all 41 Concacaf men’s national teams in the Fifa match windows of September, October and November 2019. The League A group winners – Mexico, USA, Honduras and Costa Rica – qualified for the first Nations League Finals, originally scheduled for June, but suspended due to the public health situation.

Concacaf said the 2019-20 Finals will now take place in the Fifa match window of March 2021, at a venue in the United States to be determined. The second edition of the Nations League will begin in June 2022 and run through to March 2023.

The 2021 Gold Cup will run from July 10 to August 1 next year. The qualifiers which were scheduled for March and June 2020 have been suspended and will now be replaced by a centralised preliminary round due to take place in the US in the week before the Gold Cup starts.

The 12 participating teams in the preliminary round will be: Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said: “With the launch of the Concacaf Nations League in 2018, and the expansion of the Gold Cup in 2019, we have consistently provided more opportunities for all our member associations to play and compete on the international stage. That was our starting point for developing this new format and we believe we have struck the right balance.”

He added: “Our next priorities are to continue progressing plans for the resumption of our club competitions and to ensure we finalise a women’s international calendar for the coming years which supports the continued development of women’s football in our region.”