Running the numbers: How many points will it take for Canada to qualify for Qatar 2022?

The final round of the 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying format is unprecedented in that it features eight teams playing 14 games in five international windows. It will be brilliant!

To look for patterns in predicting what it might take for teams to progress, the best examples of how this will play out are the South American World Cup qualification model (CONMEBOL) and the previous model used by CONCACAF, when both regions from 1998 to 2018 had a lengthy home-and-away league table format.

During this time, CONCACAF had six teams playing 10 matches each in all six qualifying periods, while CONMEBOL used their successful format of 10 teams playing each other home and away for a total of 18 matches played each four times, and nine teams playing home and away twice for a total of 16 matches in the years where Brazil automatically qualified (as holders in 2006, hosts in 2014).

This gives us a lot of data using 12 competitions and 684 international matches to look at where the completion of each round comes after either 10, 16 or 18 matches. To have an idea of what it will take to qualify after 14 matches in the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign the numbers, both in isolation and combined, from both regions give us a good idea of what it might take.

To qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 teams must finish in the top three. The team that finishes fourth will face an intercontinental playoff. We will look at what it takes for all 4 spots using the total amounts of teams that finished in those spots during the last six World Cup cycles.

CONCACAF (60 games) CONMEBOL (104 games) Total Avg
1st        126pts (2.1PPG) 214pts (2.05PPG) 2.07PPG
2nd       109pts (1.82PPG) 188pts (1.81PPG) 1.81PPG
3rd        91pts (1.52PPG) 175pts (1.68PPG) 1.62PPG
4th        79pts (1.32PPG) 163pts (1.57PPG) 1.48PPG

There will be 56 games played in final World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF. In the last two cycles there have been 33% of games in this region that have been drawn. If that happens again 18 of the 56 games could award a combined two points and the rest (38) would award three, leaving a total of 150 points awarded. Using the total average points of the teams finishing in these 12 competitions you can see the following estimated points totals for teams finishing the final WCQ would match well with an estimated 150 total points awarded.

1st – 29pts

2nd – 25.4pts

3rd – 22.7pts

4th – 20.7pts

5th – 17.8pts

6th – 14.6pts

7th & 8th combined – 19.8pts

Looking simply at the highest (1.66PPG) and lowest (1.3PPG, Panama in 2018) numbers of the teams finishing third that was just enough to have beaten the team that finished fourth gives us a very realistic range of 18 and 23pts to finish third. Canada will know anything under this will make it difficult. Anything in this range and they have a real chance.