The Canadian men’s team learned on Wednesday the four sides they will face in the first round of 2022 FIFA Concacaf World Cup qualifying.
Canada will take on Suriname, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, and Aruba in the revamped tournament’s first round, set to be played in October and November of this year.
John Herdman’s side will need to top the five-team group, and then win a two-legged tie against another group winner, in order to get to Concacaf’s final stage dubbed “The Oct”, which is an eight-team group stage with the top three teams qualifying directly for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The fourth-placed team enters an intercontinental playoff.
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.
The format for World Cup qualifying, as outlined by Concacaf, is as follows:
- 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.
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.