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Explained: Canada's potential path to the 2022 FIFA World Cup

This year Concacaf announced a change to the confederation’s format for qualification to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The simplest way to qualify will be through the Hexagonal, the usual six-team round-robin finish to Concacaf’s qualification process. However this time the top six teams in the region, per FIFA rankings, will automatically jump to the final Hex stage.

Canada are currently seventh in those rankings.

If that remains the case come June, all is not lost. But what will their qualification path look like?

GROUP STAGE – September, October, November 2020

The first step of qualification won’t start until September of 2020. In this first stage teams ranked 7-35 will be drawn into eight groups. Five groups will feature four teams, while the last three groups will have only three teams.

Assuming Canada is not drawn against one of the other eight highest ranked teams involved in this round, these are some of the opponents they might face in the group stage, based on current Concacaf order within the FIFA rankings.

  1. Suriname
  2. Nicaragua
  3. Dominican Republic
  4. Grenada
  5. Barbados
  6. Guyana
  7. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  8. Bermuda
  9. Belize
  10. St. Lucia
  11. Puerto Rico
  12. Cuba
  13. Montserrat
  14. Dominica
  15. Cayman Islands
  16. Bahamas
  17. Aruba
  18. Turks and Caicos Islands
  19. US Virgin Islands
  20. British Virgin Islands
  21. Anguilla

Only the winner of each of the eight groups will advance to the quarterfinals, following the home-and-away round-robin.

QUARTERFINALS – March 2021

Should Canada emerge as one of eight group winners, they will enter the two-leg knockout format starting with the quarterfinals. Below are the current top eight ranked teams (and presumed favourites) from the group stage.

  1. Canada
  2. Curacao
  3. Panama
  4. Haiti
  5. Trinidad and Tobago
  6. Antigua and Barbuda
  7. Guatemala
  8. St. Kitts and Nevis

SEMIFINALS – June 2021

Outside of Canada, teams like Panama, Haiti, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago will be favoured to reach the final four in this stage.

FINAL – September 2021

The last two remaining teams from the lower-seeded qualification will meet over two legs to keep their World Cup dreams alive.

PLAYOFF vs. HEX – October 2021

Whichever country emerges from the gauntlet of Concacaf competitors will then face a two-leg playoff against the fourth place team from the Hex. Assuming that Mexico and the United States finish in the top three (no guarantee, but they are likely to be favoured), the fourth place side could be any of the following:

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Jamaica
  3. Honduras
  4. El Salvador

INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFF – March 2022

Only months from the 2022 FIFA World Cup, one last obstacle would remain, and it would likely be the stiffest test. This will come as yet another two-leg playoff against a team to be determined from one of three other regions:

  • Asia (fourth round playoff winner)
  • Oceania (confederation winner)
  • South America (fifth place team)

For context, the intercontinental playoff representatives from the past four World Cup qualification cycles were:

  • AFC: Australia, Jordan, Bahrain (x2)
  • Concacaf: Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago
  • OFC: New Zealand (x3), Australia (*now in AFC)
  • CONMEBOL Peru, Uruguay (x3)

FIFA World Cup – November 2022

Should Canada achieve their goal they will play at their first men’s World Cup since 1986, and only their second ever appearance, in Qatar in November of 2022.
 
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