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The Octagon: New World Cup qualifying format affecting United States, Costa Rica

July 27, 2020

Costa Rica will compete with seven other teams next year as it seeks a berth in the FIFA Men’s World Cup Qatar 2022.

CONCACAF, the ruling body for football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, announced the new World Cup qualifying format on Monday afternoon. In it, the traditional hexagonal has been replaced by an eight-team final round for which Costa Rica and the United States have already qualified.

The so-called “Final Round” — which we (and others) are deeming “The Octagon” and desperately hoping it sticks — will begin June 2021. Each team will play the other home-and-away for a total of 14 matches each.

The top three CONCACAF teams will earn a spot in the 2022 World Cup, while the fourth-place team will advance to an intercontinental playoff for their invitation to Qatar.

The CONCACAF nations that have automatically qualified for The Octagon, based on their FIFA ranking, are as follows:

  1. Mexico
  2. United States
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Jamaica
  5. Honduras

Thirty teams in CONCACAF will compete for the remaining three final-round berths in a tournament beginning in October 2020.

La Sele has qualified for the last two World Cups, most notably reaching the quarterfinals in 2014.

The Qatar World Cup will begin on November 21, 2022.

Nations League rescheduled for 2021

Costa Rica advanced to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal and qualified for the next CONCACAF Gold Cup thanks to their group stage performance last November.

The Nations League semifinals and final were originally scheduled for June 2020 in Texas. They have been rescheduled for March 2021 at a to-be-determined venue in the United States.

In the semifinals, Costa Rica will face Mexico, while the United States will take on Honduras.

Gold Cup dates announced

The 2021 Gold Cup will begin on July 10 and end August 1, CONCACAF announced.

Costa Rica has already qualified for this tournament, which is traditionally held in the United States.

Twelve teams are still eligible for a spot in the 2021 Gold Cup: Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Details on their qualification process will be announced “in the coming weeks.”

“Many communities across the CONCACAF region continue to face very difficult circumstances due to the current public health situation and my thoughts and prayers go out to them,” said CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani.

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