Even though the 2022 FIFA World Cup is over two and a half years away, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced continental confederations to consider alternative methods of qualification regarding the tournament. It takes a few years to go from 210 countries down to 32 in time and the pandemic stopped everything in its tracks right now.
Concacaf is supposed to begin their qualifying campaign at the end of August but that’s very much in doubt the closer we get. As a result, an alternative proposal for qualification is making the rounds that might buy the confederation some time.
First reported by Panama’s RPCTV and relayed by ESPN FC, the six team round-robin tournament known as the “Hex” would be replaced with three groups of four teams that would consist of the top 12 Concacaf teams in FIFA rankings. Group winners would qualify for the World Cup while the top runner-up would have a playoff against the winner of a tournament of teams ranked 13 to 35. The winner of that would enter another playoff against a team from a yet to be determined confederation for a World Cup spot.
— Brad Humber (@djcuse) June 8, 2020
Based on this format, the teams currently slated to make this tournament is as follows: (FIFA ranking in parenthesis)
Pot 1: Mexico (11), United States (22), Costa Rica (46)
Pot 2: Jamaica (48), Honduras (62), El Salvador (69)
Pot 3: Canada (73), Curaçao (80), Panama (81)
Pot 4: Haiti (86), Trinidad and Tobago (105), Antigua and Barbuda (126)
This would be a similar, yet different format from the original method. The original, and current format as of now, kept the Hex but placed everyone else in the tournament to determine who faces the fourth place finisher.
Obviously, if this new format happens, the big winners would be the teams in Pots 3 and 4. Those six teams would’ve had to battle it out with 28 other teams for one team to have an opportunity to get an opportunity to qualify for the World Cup. Now, those teams have life in this qualification format.
The reasoning behind the proposed change is that under the Hex format, six teams would play 10 games from August 2020 to September 2021. Now, twice as many teams could play six games and if they keep the current schedule, Concacaf could push back qualification a couple months.
When it comes to the lower seeded teams, a 28-team tournament could become a 22-team tournament and fewer games would be played.
It’s unknown if any changes will be made but it is an idea to give Concacaf some time to get qualifying over so it doesn’t affect the World Cup.