Canada will enter qualifying in the first round. In order to meet Concacaf’s top-ranked teams in the final round of the qualifiers, John Herdman’s side needs to top a five-team group, and then win a two-legged tie against another group winner in the second round.
A draw will be held in mid-August to determine the first-round groups. The six seeded nations are El Salvador (Group A), Canada (Group B), Curacao (Group C), Panama (Group D), Haiti (Group E) and Trinidad and Tobago (Group F).
Canada could potentially meet Haiti in the second round if both nations win their first-round groups. Haiti defeated Canada in the knockout stages of last summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup.
First round: 30 teams (Concacaf nations ranked 6-35 in the current FIFA world rankings) divided into six groups. Games to take place during the October 2020 and November 2020 international windows, with each nation playing two home games and two road games. Winners from each group move on.
Second round: Six teams are divided into three home-and-away ties in March 2021. Winners move on. Group A winner vs. Group F winner, Group B winner vs. Group E winner and Group C winner vs. Group D winner.
Final round: Eight-team group stage featuring the top-five ranked teams in Concacaf (Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras) and three winners from the second round. Teams will play each other twice (home and away) in September, October, and November 2021 before completing the qualifying round in January and March of 2022.
The top three teams in the final round qualify directly for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar while the fourth-placed team enters an intercontinental playoff.
Before COVID-19, Canada’s men’s side was on the bubble to qualify for “The Hex” – Concacaf’s six-team World Cup qualifying shortcut – as they scheduled international friendlies in an attempt to leapfrog El Salvador for the final spot. Otherwise, Canada faced a 30-team knockout gauntlet with the lower-ranked sides in Concacaf.
Canada has only qualified for the World Cup once before, in 1986 in Mexico, when it lost all three of its group-stage games before bowing out of the tournament.
Concacaf offers 2021 Gold Cup, Nations League updates
Meantime, Concacaf also offered an update to the maiden Nations League tournament, which was set to be completed last month before COVID-19 scuttled those plans.
Officials say the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League Finals will now take place in the FIFA match window of March 2021, at a venue in the United States to be determined. Costa Rica is set to face Mexico and USA will match up against Honduras in the two semi-finals. They have also confirmed the 2022/23 Concacaf Nations League will begin in June 2022 and conclude in March 2023.
As well, Concacaf addressed the 2021 Gold Cup. A slate of “Road to Gold Cup” qualifiers were slated in March and June of this year, with winners earning a spot in next summer’s tournament. Officials now say they will organize a Gold Cup preliminary round for the 12 participating countries.