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Concacaf announces World Cup qualifying format changes, including eight-team final round

Concacaf has released its plans for handling World Cup qualifying in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has halted international soccer around the world.

A new qualifying format was unveiled on Monday, and includes a new final round consisting of eight teams, replacing the traditional six-team final round format known as The Hex.

The eight-team final round, which is scheduled to begin in June, will see the top three finishers qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, with the fourth-place team securing a place in a World Cup qualifying playoff.

The five highest-ranked Concacaf teams in the latest FIFA rankings have secured automatic berths into the final round. The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras are through to the final round, which will consist of 14 total matches per team, and begin in June of 2021.

The other three spots in the final round will be decided by a tournament featuring teams 6 through 35 in the latest Concacaf rankings. Those 30 teams will be divided into six groups of five, with the winner of each group moving on to a two-leg playoff against another group winner. Those playoffs are scheduled to take place in March of 2021.

Concacaf also announced that the Nations League knockout rounds will be played in March of 2021, after having been postponed from their original June 2020 date. That marks March of 2021 as the USMNT’s return to competitive action.

Concacaf also announced that the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup will take place in July of 2021.


  1. Why isn’t anyone mentioning the elephant in the room? Concacaf is run by a Canadian named Victor Montagliani. Of course he wants Canada in the final round, where they haven’t been since 1997. Canada is currently ranked 7th in Concacaf. (El Salvador is ahead of them in 6th place.) If it’s a hexagonal, Canada probably doesn’t qualify. El Salvador does. But by expanding it to 8 teams, he’s giving his home country a better chance to qualify.

      • Canada would be looking at something like the Dominican Republic and then Trinidad. So first round a walkover, second round should be somewhat challenging.

    • Dave: A couple forces are work here. 1. El Salvador is probably not the 6th best team, they play a pretty easy schedule, they didn’t even qualify for A level of NL. 2. Canada has young stars, Davies (best or 2nd best player in the region) plus a couple other up and comers. 3. Concacaf promised smaller nations a chance to make the WC that the pandemic took away, this gives a glimmer at least to tiny programs.

  2. Correct. That said, I am also very pro-Nations League because the bottom 2/3rds of CONCACAF are now forced to actually schedule matches and act like real federations. Should only help beef up the quality of fringe Hex (now Octagon) teams.

  3. That is a lot of games in 2021; probably 20 for the US, plus the Olympics, many of the games played in only June, July, and August.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  4. They sure are cramming a ton of games 2021….
    Nations League,
    Gold Cup,
    WC Qualifying
    All are considered “A” games that will be on the FIFA Calendar and would “Cap Tie” any player that actually sees minutes. I expect there will have to be some kind of player rotation for all these games.

      • Depends if their are not any friendlies this fall NL would be the only chance for first team group to play together in almost a year and a half. Nov. 2019-June 2021 without a match.

    • july/aug is going to be a mess because the euro based will want to be with clubs in between qualifiers but we might have to field GC and Olympic teams. and if you send a U23 to the olympics the GC was your window to try him as a senior player this cycle.

      • Rumor is there will be Euro based friendlies in Oct and Nov. That would provide some chance for youngsters to get a look. Berhalter has shown he’s not afraid to play youngsters if they are ready Llanez and Dest, he’s given all indication Reyna will jump right in as well. The positive of it would be a guy like Akinola could play in GC and be capped tied, of course Canada has a tight schedule too.

  5. They really want to get Alphonso Davies in the qualifiers.
    All of this predicted on the vaccines working of course. No problem with the 8 teams but why on Earth play the GC in July after playing 4 matches in June. Oh yeah money. With the Olympics being played at the same time I expect to see Corey Baird, Daniel Lovitz, and Will Trapp playing in next Summer’s Gold Cup.

    • Not necessarily…..but it will come down to the players that have been hyped up for several years to start actually playing games with their clubs ‘A” team overseas and not these reserve or ‘U” teams. People like to complain about seeing Lovitz, Baird and others who they deem less deserving of NT callups and I would agree with some of those gripes, that is until you understand this pool is not as deep as we would like it to be with players playing a high levels regularly so there needs to be some room for less heralded players getting minutes or taking spots from other players who may be in more competitive leagues but just aren’t getting minutes, period! I’ve always been for the more talented player playing over the least talented player, but not if the more talented player is not playing

      • I was being a little tongue in cheek but I will be shocked if we can field anything more than a camp cupcake type roster for the GC. Our first team comprised mostly of Euro players will spend most of June with the first four qualifiers, I don’t see them then giving up all of preseason and their short vacation for the GC. MLS stars like Morris can’t be away from MLS clubs for all of June and July either. With U23s hopefully in the Olympics that rules them out of the GC as well. So your looking at a roster of almost all players over 23 but not in the first 23. I’d actually be ok with Corey Baird he is actually effective in MLS, Lovitz isn’t even very good in MLS and his play is to slow even against Concacaf opponents. A lot of course depends on how players club situations change over the next 12 months.

    • CONCACAF? This whole nations league idea was NOT CONCACAFs idea. They jumped on board like a teenager offered free Justin Beiber tickets, I will give you that.

      • I think he was referring to a shortened window but a larger qualifying group. The Hex with 10 match days was supposed to start in September now the Ocho with 14 match days starts 9 months later.

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