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.