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Concacaf unveils new World Cup qualifying format, with FIFA rankings determining HEX participants

The 2022 World Cup may be a while away, but now we know the path Concacaf teams will have to take to get there.

Concacaf unveiled the region’s World Cup qualifying format ahead of the 2022 World Cup, with the Hexagonal Round returning, with one major change. The six teams in the Hex will be determined by FIFA ranking, with the six highest-ranked Concacaf teams in the June 2020 rankings securing spots in the final round of qualifying.

Simultaneously, teams ranked 7-35 will go into a group stage that will then see the stage’s group winners compete in a knockout round tournament, with the winner then facing the fourth-place team from the Hex for a chance to play in the World Cup qualifying playoff.

“The love for the game in this region is growing rapidly and our diverse and dynamic communities want a clear pathway to world-class football,” Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said in a news release. “Through our freshly designed formats — across FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Concacaf Nations League and Concacaf Gold Cup — we are staging more competitive international matches than ever before to help these communities fulfill their potential.”

“This new FIFA World Cup qualifying format, based on the FIFA rankings, makes every competitive match count. Alongside the Concacaf Nations League, and our expanded Gold Cup, it will raise standards of play to unprecedented levels and develop the sport across the region, making the leading Concacaf nations stronger on the global stage, while giving our emerging footballing nations the chance to pursue their dreams of playing at a World Cup.”

Qualifiers will begin in the September 2020 FIFA window with more matches taking place in October 2020, November 2020, March 2021, and September 2021. The playoff between the fourth-place Hex finisher and the winner of the tournament involving lower-ranked teams will be in the October 2021 FIFA window.

A current look at the top six teams would include Mexico (17), the United States (25), Costa Rica (36), Jamaica (54), Honduras (62), and El Salvador (70). Panama (71) and Haiti (103) would be two teams who would have to go through qualification, should they remain outside of the top-six ranked Concacaf teams. It should be noted that the rankings should change considerably in August to include results from the recent Gold Cup.

Up next though for Concacaf is the start of the inaugural Nations League, which begins this Fall.


  1. While I’m not gonna complain too much about the USA getting (yet another) gentle push towards WC qualification, I have to imagine there are people in Canada who are very, very angry.

    • You can’t completely lay down against Haiti and then complain too loud. Between 2017 GC and 2019 GC they played 7 matches, four of them against the tinniest of minnows. I get they wouldn’t have known how important rankings would become but they weren’t doing anything to improve their seeding in the old method either.

      • I’m glad someone else has picked up on the absurd lack of scheduling that has happened so far during Herdman’s tenure. I couldn’t believe they weren’t scheduling a friendly during each of those NLQ windows. Heck, even tiny Caribbean sides were playing them. And then before the GC, they only had a closed-door training match against T&T? Not sure what’s going on with the CSF, but if they wanna talk a big game with that young talent they have, they need to also act like an actualling “footballing nation” and get out of that minnow mindset they’ve had in recent times.

        Of course, this all could be a directive from Herdman himself. Fragile egos hate being scratched.

  2. So what your saying is the last 3 spots are up to the highest buyer… cause we know FIFA isn’t corrupt or anything! This is stupid, this takes away games that players can gain experience with and an upstart team has less of a chance to advance in my opinion. 1 bad game and your out, where as before they had a chance to recover for someone like Curacao.

    • You do understand that they are computer rankings right? There is no one to bribe. It’s not as fair as say Uefa or Conmebol but do you want to see a group of US, Canada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Aruba, and Turks and Caicos because that’s what Uefa style qualifying would get you. Curaçao lost to Antigua, drew with Vietnam and lost to El Salvador in the last 4 months so it’s not one bad game. It’s more they had one good week so everyone knows them. El Salvador is 10-1-5 since the last WC that’s why they’ve moved into position to qualify for the Hex, with wins over Curaçao, Haiti twice, Canada, Honduras, and Peru.

  3. Works for me. The early rounds always suck for European-based US players:
    1) Multiple flights to and fro to play on a cricket oval or some cow patch
    2) US players losing starting spots, penalized by coaches for missing training and/or needing rest

  4. Missing the 2018 WC seems to hurt even more now with a region that the minnows might get stronger but never going to truly bring out the best in the bigger fish. New league and less qualifiers means US will suffer unless players can get playing time at big clubs. 2026 will be difficult to remain sharp with LoN and fewer friendlies. Honestly from a USMNT perspective this process seems like trying fix something that wasn’t broken. Our new society Always trying to reinvent the wheel, and saying they’re going backwards is progress

    • Basically Nations League has become the old first round group. All you lose is the home and away with St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mexico, US, and CR are always in the Hex this changed nothing for top teams just gives teams like Haiti and Curaçao something to play for.

      • Let’s not pretend we never had any “hearts in throats” moments during the first group stage! Alan Gordon’s finest hour!

  5. Terrible. You need to play your way into the World Cup and into the Hex. I want the US in the World Cup, but not by invitation.

    Bad all around.

  6. How will Jamaica and El Salvador being in League B effect their rankings? They should have fairly easy groups but won’t get much credit for those matches. Curaçao, Canada, and Haiti have chances to beat higher ranked opponents but don’t have a lot of sure victories. Group C of League A (CR, Haiti, and Curaçao) could be very interesting or Haiti and Curaçao will just eliminate each other. US and Mexico have pretty much clinched the Hex at this point. CR as well but with a stronger group they could drop but unlikely below 6th.

    • This format definitely makes NL more interesting and meaningful now and same goes for GC. So much for them being friendlies at least for the lower ranked teams they could mean everything for nations like Jamaica, Panama, TnT, Haiti, Curacao, and others. If I’m the head of any of these nations FA I’m on the phone right now with Conmebol and telling them we want and will immediately accept an invite to Copa America too, they know getting out of the group is impossible but a chance at a win or draw with a Bolivia or Paraguay may make it worth it given how long those wins stay on the ranking equation. Same should got for US and MEx too going to Copa.

      Thinking ahead and given how the rankings work, if a lower ranked nation like lets say Curacao gets a big win against a nation like US, Mex or CRC in NL that could make big difference in ranking. This incentive means they are going to be coming to play and gunning for us in NL, big game hunting. We can’t afford to take NL callups and games lightly like our previous mindset had been, oh its just a glorified friendlies league for those minnows to get more games, not anymore this changes everything. We need to be bring our A squad for NL matches nothing less.

      • The field is already set for Copa America 2020 with Qatar and Australia the invites.
        It doesn’t change much for the big 3, Us, Mex, CR would have to lose every matches the next year to drop below 6th. The better option for a small nation like Curaçao might be to get in the non-Hex side and hope to win the home and away series. Of course for a team made up of Dutch players making the Hex could attract more players with connections to the island.

  7. Some real pluses and minuses with this plan. The big minus for me is using FIFA rankings to determine the Hex. They can be gamed and are just not that accurate. Somebody is going to get screwed using the rankings and they are a poor substitute for playing real matches with definitive outcomes like every confederations has always done. But I do like the idea of including the lower level teams with that chance to get in with a strong run at the end. I wish they instead could have somehow used Nation’s League outcomes, maybe with some sort of qualifying round instead of FIFA rankings.

    • Amen on the FIFA rankings. Just drop that garbage already before the Swiss have a number one seed again.

      • It’s calendar related. There simply isn’t enough dates left in the qualifying window to run both the NL and then a multi round qualifier if they want to keep the hexagonal format. I’d hope for 2026 they’ll be able to start the NL sooner since it will not be the first time. Although with Canada, Mexico, and the US likely all qualified as hosts it may also look different.

  8. So, less meaningful matches for the top six?
    I’m all for more inclusivity with the smaller nations, but while also cutting competitive matches for the region’s big fish? Ehh.
    Also kind of insane that VM potentially screws over his own federation (Canada, currently 78th) with this set-up. Now CMNT has to get results in the Nations League as well as actually scheduling quality friendlies in the spring and June to build up ranking points

  9. Very strange setup here. I guess this keeps the lower ranked teams active and alive for much more of the cycle than they had previously been. I can see how the goal to not eliminate the smaller nations immediately and have the sit in waiting for 3 years for the next cycle to start could benefit them.
    On the flip side, this is a weird way of setting up qualifying and I’m sure there will be plenty of unforeseen issues that come up.

    • Yes I think this is mostly accurate. I’m guessing the organizers would like to remove the “FIFA rankings” element over time, with Nations League performances replacing this part (assuming this all works out).
      On the good(ish) side, this provides yet another layer of insulation for the US against failure to qualify. (was anybody totally confident about the qualifying stage)? We can’t possibly screw this up…. right?


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